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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Variations or Exit Music, at La Mama Courthouse (90 minutes without interval)

Twelve years ago, Justin (Matthew Connell) fell in love for the first time. That relationship with Jason (Lachlan Martin) lasted for 18 months.

Next up, a six-and-a-half-year love affair in London with Sam (Yuchen Wang) was on the skids.

And Justin also had a fourth month fling with Nick (Joss McClelland).

Photos by Darren Gill

Writer and director Justin Nott puts his own relationships in the spotlight in Variations or Exit Music, an autobiographical elegy for queer love.

The play deals with the angst one feels when a relationship breaks down.

There is humour in amongst the heartbreak.

Friends come to the rescue when Justin desperately needs propping up. They help restore his self-worth.

It is soon clear Variations or Exit Music is a deeply personal play that offers hope iun the darkest hours.

It suggests that new love may be just around the corner.

There is a poetic quality to Nott’s writing.

He has given freely of himself as he trawls back and forth in time to give us a measure of his feelings and state of mind.

He admits he didn’t handle his own breakups well and he has injected that into Variations or Exit Music.

The set (set and costume design is by Eloise Kent) has the look of an open white oblong box, about the size of a shipping container. A single bed is on the left-hand side.

It is a place Justin (and, on occasion, his partner) can seek refuge.

The lighting by Clare Springett sets the mood and changes throughout.

The performances by Connell, Martin, McClelland and Wang are uniformly strong.

It is the former who does much of the heavy lifting, with aplomb. Music is his character’s go to in troubled times.

Variations or Exit Music is a play about desire, need and vulnerability.

As humans, we formulate views about one another.

There are people we are naturally drawn to, but then – dare I say it – life can get in the way.

What starts out with so much promise, can end slowly or in a heartbeat.

Those thoughts flashed through my head while watching the story unfold on stage.

The opening night crowd was effusive in its praise of Variations or Exit Music.

It is playing at La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton until 25th September, 2022.


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