DIЯT is an intriguing play which combines serious human rights themes with an almost mischievous sense of shape-shifting plot surprise – making it all the more appealing.

An earnest young Australian (later we discover his name is Conor) is hanging back after a Moscow tour to talk with the guide. The sardonic young Russian (whose name we never quite verify) banters with him, teasing him about his girlfriend, defending Russian politics and making barbed remarks about Australian immigration detention failures. It is an edgy exchange but flirtatious as well; a dangerous dance in a city where being queer is a risk to one’s safety.

They venture out together. To the Russian’s apartment for vodkas and then clubbing on party drugs. Conor wants the Russian to speak on camera about LGBTIQ persecution in Russia and Chechnya. They disclose a little about their lives. Growing up gay in Tasmania, for instance, and the Russian reluctantly talks about his sister, a lesbian who was betrayed by his uncle and is now missing.

Things take a sudden shift, however, after Conor passes out in his new friend’s home.

Tautly directed by Bronwen Coleman, with buzzy lighting from Matt Ralph and roiling dance beats courtesy of DJ MzRizk, DIЯT is an engaging mix of ethical debate and espionage mystery. It questions the right of outsiders to expect citizens to endanger their lives speaking out on issues. It also considers the depths of nationalistic feeling even in corrupt regimes. But in Angus Cameron’s accomplished text these threads of argument belong in the larger context of a gay love story.

The performances are excellent. Patrick Livesey’s Russian is an astute mix of swagger and introspection and his accent has no trace of parody or cliché. As the persistent but unworldly Conor, Wil King is a convincing foil to Livesey – and both have Cameron’s effortless dialogue and characterisation to support and propel them.

Here again, so early into the 2021 Fringe, is a premiere local play of real merit. Livesey has noted that there aren’t many texts available for young queer actors. What a terrific idea to go out and make a new one for themselves.

DIЯT is playing at Holden Street Theatres until March 21. 

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.