Legacy Project – now in its fifth year – is a theatre development programme created by producer Bruce Brown to support emerging theatre creators within our LGBT+ and queer community. David Butler and Ciarin Smith talk through their play Three and the complexities of polyamory.
David’s take on Three:
Three is a very personal story to us, loosely inspired by our own open poly relationship, and a particular time when we were lucky enough to be the prime couple in a secure “Three”. Ever since we had experienced this journey I wanted to put it to ink and paper, to get it out there so other people can see that there is a much richer palette of colours to draw from when deciding how you build a relationship and how you love. It was unexpected, eye-opening and beautiful.
In Three we wanted to present polyamory in an honest and non-judgemental way. We wanted to show the beautiful complexities that comes with figuring out this dynamic. Three is a small glimpse into an unperfect couples journey in taking their next steps in their relationship and overcoming their own individual insecurities.
Ciarin’s take on Three:
In Three, a throuple are forced to negotiate the complexities of their polyamorous relationship. For me, this piece is all about honesty – specifically within relationships, and especially when it’s hard. That’s when the real work gets done. This throuple find themselves dealing with an unfamiliar situation, with no rule book to give them the answers. Are they strong enough to come out united on the other side?
NB: This piece is focused on ‘Three’, only one of six short plays that make up The Legacy Project 5, and each of the other five plays are just as awesome as they think theirs is!
[After reading each other’s explanations of the show]
David: Hmm. They’re quite different.
Ciarin: It kinda shows the differences in the way we work.
D: That’s right. I’m more big picture, and you’re about the story. I guess what stood out to me were the similarities. Communication, honesty… In our minds, we talked about wanting to represent a positive, um –
D: Representation of polyamory. But we also wanted it to be honest, with all the complexities of a ‘normal’ relationship, and leave the judgements to the audience.
C: Yeah, I think there’s messiness in any kind of relationship. Nothing is black and white, everything’s a little grey.
D: Exactly. There are lots of different ways to love and be in a relationship, but communication, honesty… those are the things that make a relationship work. The play also brings out the three characters’ own individual insecurities. I think it’s quite common for … negativity in a relationship to actually be about an individual insecurity that’s been projected onto the relationship –
C: And sometimes it’s really hard to see that. I was struck by your last words; as much as we wanted to show the complexities of a poly relationship, I think we were both quite clear that we wanted to show something beautiful as well when they’re working in unison. When they really see one another, what’s really going on, what’s important to them.
D: What would you like an audience member to take away from Three?
C: To question how they run their own relationships. Because I don’t think that’s something we do enough, especially if you’re monogamous. And I think what we found about being poly is that, suddenly, you didn’t have a rulebook. And you had to keep each other a lot more honest because you’re constantly questioning… everything.
D: Yeah, I think there’s a certain amount of social indoctrination to monogamy. It doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. And there’s lots of different ways to be non-monogamous, whether it’s polyamorous, being open sexually, emotionally…
C: And that’s what’s scary for people, right? Not knowing the limitations, having to have honest conversations about rules, and the implications of those rules.
D: I think a lot of open relationships start from a place of… sexuality. But I think what we found was that there’s a lot more to it that that. The connections, you know, being true in your relationships with people, whether they’re platonic or sexual.
C: So what would you like the audience to take away.
D: The same as you. For them to go away and… be brave. Have an honest dialogue with their partner. That kind of honesty either makes or breaks relationships, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing either way.
C: I’d want them to question issues around sex. I don’t wanna give away a spoiler, but there are issues around sex that are discussed in the play, and that’s a topic that couples don’t talk about. There’s obviously a lot to be unpacked there, but it’s a starting point.
D: And I think gay couples can make the rules up a little more. We’re the same sex, we generally can be a little more open with our sexuality. But we still have the same complexities as any relationship. You learn as you go. I feel like our relationship is a lot stronger, and we’re much better people, because of our experience being polyamorous.
C: Me too.
Legacy Project 5 is part of this year’s Auckland Pride Festival and runs from the 8 – 16 February at Q Theatre Loft. Get your tickets from the Q Theatre website.