It’s 130 AD and the body of a beautiful young man lies lifeless on the banks of the Nile. In his short life he became famous throughout the Roman Empire. In death he will become a god. But who was he?
A striking re-imagining of the story of Emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous, David Atfield’s Scandalous Boy will receive its world premiere at Canberra’s The Street Theatre for a limited season from 14 November.
In 2011 acclaimed ACT writer/director David Atfield became intrigued by a beautiful face that stared at him in every museum in Europe. It wasn’t the face of a living person, it was the face of a statue. Below the statue the card would say “Antinous, Hadrian’s Favourite” or, occasionally, “Hadrian’s lover”.
This was the starting point for Atfield’s re-discovery of this silenced story from Ancient Rome, a re-discovery that would lead to him writing the play Scandalous Boy.
Named as a finalist in the prestigious American playwrighting competition of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation in New York – a yearly literary competition for works that concern LGBT life, Scandalous Boy is a play of bold theatricality, full of political intrigue, betrayal, sex, passion, lust and love.
In Scandalous Boy, it’s the 21st century and Antinous’ statue comes back to life to reclaim his place in history. He is not just the “shameless and scandalous boy” that Christian historians dismissed him as and he’s learnt a lot about life standing on that pedestal for 2000 years. Atfield brings Ancient Rome to life and reveals it to be a time not so dissimilar to today.
“It’s always been important to me to reclaim elements of gay history that have been forgotten or over-looked by historians and Antinous’ story is one that has been deliberately avoided in many histories of Ancient Rome,” says Atfield.
“After all, he was proclaimed to be a god after his death, and his cult lasted 300 years, rivalling in popularity the early Christian Church, a Church that would eventually ban his worship.”
With Atfield also in the director’s chair, he has assembled a terrific ensemble of new and established actors to tackle his bold work led by the remarkable AFI and Logie Award winning actor Nicholas Eadie as Emporer Hadrian – much loved for his roles in the mini-series Vietnam and GP as well as numerous appearances at Sydney Theatre Company (STC) and Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC).
Returning to The Street Theatre will be Canberra actors Emma Strand and Peter Robinson and the creative team of designers Imogen Keen, Gillian Schwab and Liberty Kerr. Making their professional debuts are Ethan Gibson as Antinous and James Hughes as Marcellus.
Scandalous Boy was developed through The Street’s The Hive and First Seen programs and promises to be a sexy, funny and moving theatrical experience you will never forget. The world premiere season has received Arts ACT project funding and premieres as part of the 2014 Spring Out Festival.
“A remarkably affecting balance of the playful and the serious… the playfulness doesn’t stop the sexual politics from being disturbing, even confrontational…” – The Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation Judges Panel.
The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West
Season: 14 – 23 November 2014
Bookings: (02) 6247 1223 or online at: www.thestreet.org.au
For more information, visit: www.thestreet.org.au for details.
Image: Scandalous Boy – photo by Lorna Sim