Three’s company?

Image by Lyndon Katene from LK Creative Photography Zak Enayat, Alex Walker, Tom Sainsbury, Liam Coleman
Image by Lyndon Katene from LK Creative Photography (L) Alex Walker (R) Zak Enayat
mage by Lyndon Katene from LK Creative Photography(L) Liam Coleman (R) Alex Walker
Dominic Hoey talks to actor/writer Liam Coleman about his upcoming theatre show Play, dating in Auckland’s gay/bisexual scene and working with director Tom Sainsbury.

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Auckland based writer/performer Liam Coleman’s upcoming production, Play is his first time writing for the stage. But the 32-year-old is no novice, having scripted the webseries These Two, and worked on various short films.

He’s also being linked up with veteran of the theatre scene, playwright and comic Tom Sainsbury, who has over 50 productions to his name. The show, which is part of this year’s Pride Festival, centres around three gay men trying to figure out their place in the gay/bisexual scene in Auckland, while exploring the concepts of monogamy and polyamory play in mordern relationships.

It’s complicated

While Coleman is quick to point out that Play isn’t autobiographical, he acknowledges it was inspired by his experiences.  “I was going through something similar last year, in terms of being in a love triangle situation. And I was really struggling with the whole thing. I had so many ideas and thoughts going through my head about what was going on. How did I get here and how do I get out of it?”

He started seeking advice and soon realised that many of his friends shared his feelings of confusion around dating. “A lot of people have been in a situation where people aren't clear what they want, or don't want to be honest with what they're actually wanting.”

Realising there was a story worth telling, Coleman locked himself in his bedroom for a weekend, living off Uber Eats, until he emerged with the first draft. As luck would have it, Q Theatre were asking for applications for their summer season. With only a week to turn things around, Coleman hired a dramaturg to help him work on the story and submitted a second draft which was accepted.

Image by Lyndon Katene from LK Creative Photography  (L) Alex Walker (R) Zak Enayat

Opening up

Coleman is also acting in the play, which is currently in rehearsals. He describes it as being more of a workshop, with everyone contributing to the work.

“All the actors are inputting and talking about this whole concept of monogamy and polyamory and what does it actually mean, what these people want, how does it work for them and why doesn’t work for them. We’ve had some really interesting discussions.”

Coleman says he feels that polyamory is becoming more popular, and monogamy is starting to be seen as an antiquated way of structuring relationships.

In the play, there’s no moral judgment or opinion about either one of those things

“In the play, there’s no moral judgment or opinion about either one of those things. It's just kind of bringing it to life and seeing what happens when you put those three things together; polyamory, monogamy and open relationships.”

Coleman admits that it can be tricky switching between his two roles in the production. “It’s hard being in rehearsals, just been the actor and not the writer.” But he says having Sainsbury directing the play has helped him let go and focus on learning his lines and embodying the character.

Image by Lyndon Katene from LK Creative Photography  (L) Alex Walker (R) Zak Enayat

Handing over the reins

The process of handing over your creation to someone else is not an easy one, but a working history with his director gave Coleman the confidence to relinquish the creative reins.

“I really trust the play is in good hands,” he says of Sainsbury. “He's written and directed so many plays, he really knows what he's doing. It's been invaluable working with him."

I’m laughing out loud in rehearsals. So there’s definitely comedy. But it isn’t Tom Sainsbury inspired. It’s Liam Coleman inspired.

The respect is clearly mutual. In a recent interview with Express Magazine, Sainsbury sung the praises of both Play and Coleman’s writing. 

“Liam has written some very funny (yet truthful) moments in the play. I’m laughing out loud in rehearsals. So there’s definitely comedy. But it isn’t Tom Sainsbury inspired. It’s Liam Coleman inspired.”

Written by

Dominic Hoey

4 Feb 2020

Dominic Hoey is an author, playwright and poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His debut novel, Iceland was a New Zealand bestseller and was long-listed for the 2018 Ockham Book Award.

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