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“Visibility isn’t enough, especially if it’s just a byword for heterosexual narratives, with queer bodies fitted in.” | Oli Isaac and Oakley Flanagan on This Queer House at Vault Festival

Tell us about the show you’re bringing to the Vault Festival.

Oakley: This Queer House is a play about a queer couple who inherit a home and attempt to renovate it. It’s in collaboration with OPIA Collective, infusing elements of theatre, live music and movement, to tell a story about a relationship assailed by a space that by degrees becomes hostile to them both.

What inspired you to write a show about home-making?

Oakley: It was odd that with all the possibility in terms of the multiple spaces VAULT offers for theatre shows, that the idea for the play sprung from something as seemingly banal as a couple moving into a house, especially because it’s an alien concept for most millenials. It did mean however that the set-up was already strange, and unfamiliar to me.

The conceit of Leah and Oli, its occupants, becoming dislocated from themselves and one another as they attempt to renovate this old structure, became an exciting vehicle to explore the aspect of home-making that interested me.

On one hand, a very relatable desire of this couple for a place to call home, but also the troubling potential of gentrification, not just to environments and spaces, but the gentrification of Leah and Oli’s identities and politics once they’ve moved in. I wanted to use the idea of a house, which ended up being literally brought to life, to look at these more troubling aspects of assimilation; why we invest so much time and concern into renovating those old structures, rather than trying to bring about new ones.

What made you want to explore the cost of achieving dreams?

Oakley: It relates to the previous notion about home-making, but queer people around the world have fought and are still fighting for civil rights and leglislation. In the west there is perhaps a feeling among the safer few, that the work has been done in terms of law and perception, that visibility is all. But for me visibility isn’t enough, especially if it’s just a byword for heterosexual narratives, with queer bodies fitted in. 

I suppose a lot of queer writers are engaged with a relationship with forbearers and history, and the tricky nature of relating to that history, that past tense whilst living in the present one, with all the anxieties of the world we’re headed towards, as well as a sense of responsbility about writing what has been as well as what could be.

I think this is where I tried to get to towards the end of the play, a consideration of potential. Feasibly, to what extent can we extricate ourselves from certain structures and prior modes of living, when the task seems to be to find a way of living and thriving in the world. 

What is your trick to putting authentic experiences on stage?

Oakley: I struggle with the notion that theatrical experiences can ever be fully authentic because of their ultimate artifice. I do however hope that in Leah and Oli’s narrative, queer audiences can recognise elements of their own experiences, and particularly register the political implications of the play, in which a lot of seemingly relatable experiences queer people face are presented in more abstract ways. 

What do you hope people take away from your show?

Oakley: Questions.

Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival?

Oli: Yes! We are really excited about so many shows on at Vault this year. We have already been lucky enough to catch a few in between our busy rehearsal schedule, like Bible John, Small Myth, and Atlantic, which were all stunning

There are a few shows we are really excited about but more than that, we are just interested in exploring shows on at Vault. One of the things about Vault that we really enjoy is that it’s this self-contained theatre festival happening at all times, and more than anything we all just want to catch as much as can (shout out to our VAULT pass). 

There are also so many great queer-led shows at this festival, and we all supported each other over this journey, and helped promote each other, and it’s been so heart-warming. So please support queer artists at VAULT 2020!


This Queer House is at Vault Festival from 27th February to 1st March.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about Vault Festival here.

Find out more about the OPIA Collective and keep up with their work by visiting their website and following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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