A city bank teller sets off on a road trip from Adelaide to Darwin and encounters an imagined world of homicidal maniacs and drag queens in Dion Teasdale’s one-man Fringe show.
The performance is inspired partly by pop culture representations of the outback (think Wolf Creek and Priscilla Queen of the Desert). Yet despite its provocative title – Outback Homosexual Serial Killer – Teasdale says the show explores universal themes and is not gratuitous or graphic.
Produced by Teasdale’s Victorian-based independent arts production company Camp Dog Arts, the character-driven story uses a range of media, including photography, video, recorded sound and live performance. Below, the performer and writer explains what’s in store for audiences.
Outback Homosexual Serial Killer – it sounds like a salacious tabloid headline. Where did you get your inspiration?
I’m a former journalist with an appreciation of salacious tabloid headlines, so it’s no accident Outback Homosexual Serial Killer is an attention-grabbing title. However, rather than being inspired by a gruesome story ripped from the front page of a newspaper, the show is far more universal. It’s about an ordinary man who yearns for something more, and what happens to him when he breaks a few rules and steps outside his everyday existence.
My personal interest in the outback as a backdrop for storytelling comes from experiences I’ve had over the past five years working as an arts project manager in remote communities across the Northern Territory and Western Australia, during which time I’ve had to regularly drive long distances through the desert by myself. On those lonely, dusty roads, I’ve often found the outback to be a place where you become aware of the limits you’ve put on yourself or those that have been put on you, and a place where you seek to throw off some of that stuff.
The outback as a location or setting for psychological journeys is nothing new in storytelling or popular culture – the harsh, beautiful, quirky and often menacing nature of the environment and the characters who inhabit it have all been explored in popular Australian films like Wake in Fright, Mad Max, Wolf Creek and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
I’m interested in these pop culture representations of the outback and the portrayal and imagery of men who travel through the desert interior. It’s presented as a place where rules bend or are broken and men undergo profound metamorphosis. So one of the starting points for the show was the idea that, based on what we know and see in popular culture, if you set off on a road trip through the desert interior, it’s likely you’ll run into, or even become, an Outback Homosexual Serial Killer.
It’s described as a “hybrid” show …
When I started working on the project, I had recently finished writing a novel and I was looking for a way to tell this new story using more than just text or words. I’ve had experience as a filmmaker and photographer, so I was keen to use vision and sound to bring the story to life. I thought it would be interesting to use photographic and video projections, soundscapes and live performance.
Just as I started working on the show, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was looking for someone to drive her ute from Adelaide to Darwin. I jumped at the chance, grabbed my cameras, my tripod, my iPhone and a box of costumes and hit the road. While I was doing my friend a favour, I was also gathering the media content for the show, dressing up in different costumes on the side of the road and taking footage of myself up and down the Stuart Highway.
Tell us a bit about your character, Devon Baxter, and his wild journey?
As a writer, I’m really interested in creating characters audiences can identify with in one way or another, and then putting these characters into challenging situations or unfamiliar worlds and seeing what happens, how they cope and react, and how they are transformed. I’m drawn to the classic hero (or anti-hero) myth, where the audience follows the central character on a difficult, and often dark, psychological journey. Think Walter White from Breaking Bad.
In Outback Homosexual Serial Killer, the hero (or anti-hero) is Devon Baxter, a lonely city bank teller who gets into a bit of trouble, sets off on a road trip from Adelaide to Darwin, and in the process is catapulted from a dull and crowded urban existence into the vast and vibrant interior of the country. There, against the backdrop of an expansive and largely unpopulated landscape, Devon’s grip on reality begins to slip and personalities, inspired by well-known characters from popular Australian films, being to emerge.
Devon begins to look at the darker aspects of himself, his sexual desires and his capacity for rage and violence, questioning his identity and whether he’s on his way to becoming an Outback Homosexual Serial Killer.
The Fringe guide mentions strong coarse language, violence and sexual references, so clearly it’s not for the straitlaced. What type of audiences will enjoy the show?
The language, violence and sexual references are not gratuitous, graphic or vulgar, despite what might be conjured up by the title of the show. They are part of the intensity of Devon Baxter’s psychological journey and tools for telling the story. In some ways, it’s actually quite a funny show and there’s even a bit of singing and a drag performance. Having said that, the show does at times deal with mental health, drug use, sexual behaviour, criminal activity, violence and horror, so it’s really for a mature audience.
I think it’s quite a universal story – about an ordinary person who sets off on a journey and what he discovers about himself along the way, and I think it will appeal to a broad audience.
I was watching the latest instalment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit the other day and it occurred to me that Devon Baxter is just another Bilbo Baggins, except he’s not scampering through Middle Earth fighting Orcs and Dragons, he’s driving the 3000km from Adelaide to Darwin, battling his own inner demons and discovering new parts of his complex personality.
Outback Homosexual Serial Killer will be performed from February 22-27 at Salad Days Inc, 21 Gilbert Street, Adelaide.
More Fringe stories:
Naked Girls Reading in the Garden
Boris & Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure
Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking
Record line-up for 2014 Fringe
Fringe ambassador Katie Noonan