TotoToo is unabashedly storming the queer theatre scene. It has produced two plays back-to-back, and with the opening of Brad Fraser’s Martin Yesterday on Nov 17, it promises to give Ottawa audiences something to think about.
Martin Yesterday is set in Toronto where Matt, a 30-something comic-book artist begins a relationship with a gay politician, Martin Yesterday. As the truth about his relationship unravels, Matt finds himself questioning the genuineness of his lover and the queer community.
The play deals with selfishness, love, hatred and the consequences that HIV/AIDS has had on the community. It first opened in Toronto in 1997, when AIDS was seen as a deadly disease and antiretrovirals were still new. It was, and remains, a controversial piece in which the playwright pulls no punches in highlighting personal responsibility with regard to HIV transmission.
For Bradley Moseley-Williams, who plays Martin, the play is a reminder of darker times that should not be forgotten.
“Those days are over now, so if we don’t tell that story then everyone is going to forget. Martin comes from somewhere. Martin is a survivor and watched a lot of people die,” says Moseley-Williams.
Martin Yesterday is Moseley-Williams’ first foray into community theatre — in fact, it is his first foray into acting and he has embraced it wholeheartedly. Playing Martin is a challenging role: he is the one character in the play that connects all the others. He is also the least likeable character.
“Martin is a couple of things; he is a very evil person in many ways,” says Moseley-Williams. “He is a survivor and not necessarily someone people are going to like. But I think a lot of people will identify with Martin: he is as much a victim as he is a villain.”
Martin is not the only character in the play with flaws. All the characters have less-than-perfect traits that may make some audience members squirm. Douglas Connors plays Matt, the comic-book writer who lives his life on Prozac.
“He believes he has his shit together and he can’t believe no one else has their shit together, even though he necessarily doesn’t,” says Connor.
All the actors in this production have their shit together, including Tim Morin, who plays Rex. According to Morin, Rex is a side character who has mastered the art of manipulation for his own purposes. He is also a character that lets Morin have some fun on the shady side of life.
“I get to be a sexy, sultry drug addict who runs around the gay clubs in Toronto,” says Morin.
The play is a drama, with liberal injections of humour that help carry the more serious aspects through — and possibly lull the audience into a false sense of security. But it is a play that requires the audience to think: about issues that arise and evolve in relationships and how HIV/AIDS has affected the queer community.
It is also a play that takes queer theatre to a new level and one that has inspired Moseley-Williams to take a different look at the queer art world.
“It has given me a renewed interest in queer literature, queer theatre and queer people,” says Moseley-Williams.