Sapphically Challenged, a staged reading presented by the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS) is a beautiful telling of a queer relationship and the trials and tribulations of coming to terms with one's identity. Developed over the course of the last year, their performance on Saturday was their debut in front of a public audience. After much workshopping by a passionate group of creatives, the play represents a relationship that captures the familiar turmoils of love and loss and everything in between.
“Denying it never fixes it, I've learnt that the hard way.”
Throughout the play, protagonists Bella and Maya learn to navigate the complexities of an ever-changing childhood friendship including the comfort and even occasional awkwardness that they find in each other's company. Bella struggles to reconcile her Catholic upbringing with her queer identity and newly-realised romantic love for her best friend. In Bella’s monologues, she speaks directly to God, providing key insight into her deepest emotions and desires.
Maya, on the other hand, has her whole life planned out. She places rigid expectations on herself and plans to marry and start a family with her highschool boyfriend and live happily and heteronormatively ever after. As the play progresses and time passes, the two reach a point of zero communication. That is, until one night out during university when the pair reunite in a turn of fate that forever changes them and forces them to face their sexuality head on.
What follows is an expression of the inner workings of the duo as they cause each other great heartbreak, longing, betrayal, and ultimately, love. As Bella and Maya reconnect over the years, they continually attempt to cling to the innocence of their past whilst simultaneously individualising and forging the futures that they truly desire. This honest depiction of navigating personal issues and sexuality alongside societal pressures ranging from rigid family values alongside religious constraint was effortlessly expressed by the protagonists, Bella, played by Ava Camillos and Maya, played by Adelaide Tustian.
Sapphically Challenged is creator and writer Adele Beaumont’s first complete original play. An incredible feat by the up-and-coming creative, who collaborated with a wide range of talented queer artists including co-writers Ella and Victoria to tell Bella and Maya's story. The development of the play draws from the conversations, improvisation and lives of the diverse cast and crew. The show is a testament to the need for queer storytelling grounded in realism, which is made for and by the community. Representation sits at the forefront of this story, which helps audiences empathise and understand the diversity of the queer experience.
“This show has been such a special space for queer artists, and working alongside the incredible cast and crew has helped me immensely in my personal journey both as an actor and a human”, says Ava Camillos, a UTS student who plays Bella.
Evidently, the arts can truly serve as an outlet for creative expression and further self discovery, allowing those involved to navigate personal emotions in a supportive, controlled environment.
Through the combination of clever, witty scriptwriting and the magical onstage dynamic of the leads and supporting cast, the play effectively entertains its audience and emphasises the importance of telling queer stories. From painting a picture of that overwhelming first gay club experience, to a shattering coming out scene, the play illustrates the core experiences of a queer person coming of age, in a way that reflects the true chaos yet fulfilment of self acceptance.
From fits of laughter to uncomfortable silences, the play skillfully immersed the audience into the lives of the protagonists, witnessing both the extreme highs and lows of their adolescence. The cast and crew of Sapphically Challenged are a talented collective, and ones to look out for in the future.