Writer: Rebekah Bowsher
Director: Hana Pascal Keegan
It is no easy feat to pack a play’s worth of narrative into only thirteen minutes. Week two of Crips Without Constraints Part 2 shows Graeae achieving it again. Graeae proudly places D/deaf and disabled actors centre stage and tackles important issues. Flowers for the Chateau is rammed with history, emotion and surprising plot turns. It is over in a flash in the best possible way.
Rebekah Bowsher writes this snappy piece with sentiment but realism. Audio described and captioned, the scene is set by the voiceovers of the actors, who play two mothers-in-law meeting via video call for the first time. Their son and daughter are soon to be married. “Look Lizzie are we gonna stop fannying about or what?” Jules asks, after a few niceties have been exchanged. Upon removing her glasses, Lizzie recognises Jules as her ex-partner. A clear picture of their love and heartbreak is then drawn for the audience. Jules, who has since married a man, had left Lizzie back when they were younger.
Graeae understand the restrictions of producing a play in lockdown via Zoom. They do attempt to stretch the technology past its limits but places emphasis on character and language. Naomi Wirthner plays Lizzie’s lasting hurt and bitterness with strength, leaning in with fury and then reeling back and composing herself. Her physicality shows an attempt of restraint and powerfully portrays the rawness of Lizzie’s pain. This partnered with Julie Graham’s composure, playing Jules, is an effectively strained match. It is not, however, a clear case of the audience taking sides.
Bowsher’s exploration of sexuality and the realities of being in a gay relationship, both decades earlier and now, is nuanced and grounded in history. Jules admits she was frightened to stay with Lizzie. Her family had abandoned her, leaving her with no one else but Lizzie, and what if she had left too? The romantic notion that love is enough is laid bare by Flowers for the Chateau. Many members of the LGBTQ community were denied this possibility by a prejudiced and homophobic society. The violence towards homosexuality is recounted unflinchingly by Bowsher. Graffiti, fireworks and death threats are referenced, as well as the memory that “women like me and you were being raped by men who thought they needed to turn us.” Jules found safety in a heterosexual marriage. Lizzie cannot quite forgive that, but she does soften by the end.
Flowers for the Chateau provides intrigue and authenticity; as though you have accidentally slipped into the wrong Zoom meeting and cannot bear to leave without seeing or hearing what unfolds.