“My Other Closet the Cabaret” shining a light on the dark side of the rainbow

June 17 / 194

Intimate partner abuse in the LGBTIQ community is the subject of a two-person cabaret opening in Melbourne in July.

My Other Closet the Cabaret tells the true story of its lead character and performer, Russ Vickery, who is a survivor of an abusive gay relationship. With his current partner Matt Parsons, he has produced a show for voice and piano that explores the pain, manipulation and shame that is part of the complex heart of domestic violence.

“People aren’t usually aware that queer domestic violence rates are just as high in cisgender-heterosexual relationships,” says Melbourne University VCA/MCM lecturer in guitar and performer Tonié Field, who is stage managing the cabaret, and has arranged and performs a version of Over the Rainbow to close out the show.

“The production highlights the fact that intimate partner violence is buried in shame and myth wherever it occurs, but in the LGBTIQ community this is even more the case. This is part of what makes My Other Closet the Cabaret unique. Add the fact that the survivor himself tells and sings his own true story, and it makes this a truly brave, and deeply affecting theatrical work. 

“It also explores some more nuanced parts of the issue. For example, the prejudice LGBTIQ people experience on a daily basis can increase the difficulty for these victims to identify abuse or take self-protective action. Given parts of society are constantly portraying LGBTIQ people as less worthy humans and our relationships as unnatural, it’s easy to see how a victim may have less self-esteem and be prepared to accept abusive behaviours as being ‘normal’ in their relationships.

“Sometimes LGBTIQ people, especially those who have been rejected by their family of origin, may feel lucky to be in a relationship at all, and the prospect of leaving can feel like something that’s too emotionally, financially or socially difficult to accomplish,” Tonié says.

Mx Field says the Royal Commission into Family Violence has helped to increase discussion of domestic violence, with improved awareness of its social impacts, but queer domestic violence is still ‘closeted’. (Hence the show’s title).

“Because the sector has focused on the needs of cisgender heterosexual women up until this point, LGBTIQ victims face a lack of appropriate support services,” Tonié says.

To that end, My Other Closet the Cabaret is a very socially progressive theatre piece. Giving powerful insight into all abusive relationships and specifically those of LGBTIQ people, this production educates and compels us all to end domestic violence.

'My Other Closet the Cabaret' runs from 15 – 28  July at Bella Union, 54 Victoria Street, Carlton South. 

(*A professional DV counsellor is on hand at every performance.)

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