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Art imitates life in Malthouse’s latest comedy This is Living

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Kaylah Joelle Baker

Going to the theatre can be an escape, but sometimes a special gem of a show can instead help audiences realise they are not alone on this roller coaster called life; this is what This is Living aspires to do. 

“This play is about people who live or work in the city who are trying to get away to escape Melbourne, but they end up taking all their problems with them, which is something we can all relate to,” the show’s writer Ash Flanders said.

“People are going to be watching characters they can see themselves or their friends in.”

Showing in the Merlyn Theatre at Malthouse from July 7 to 30, This is Living is loosely based on the experiences of Mr Flanders, and one getaway in particular. 

After a tough year in 2020, with the majority of it spent dealing with a cancer diagnosis his partner had received, Ash and his partner (who was looking more stable) decided to go away with three older female friends who they had become like a “chosen family” with. 

“We have been away every New Year’s but this one was very eventful, and when I started to unpack all that had happened, I felt like there was a clear play here,” Mr Flanders said. 

“For this play, and like in real life, the gay couple are going away with these women and their relationship is very much in jeopardy and they’re not sure if they are still even going to be together by the time the countdown happens, and then the female friends have like 30 years of micro things that are building up.”

As all the characters feel a little judged by each other, due to all making different choices in life and questioning whether they feel less than because of those choices, scenarios in the play begin to get very raw, very quickly. 

But between these tense moments, which are part of all relationships, Mr Flanders has made sure to weave in the humour and uniqueness of all his friends – as humour is really important to him in all facets of life. 

“Things can turn really quickly in this play, and one minute you are laughing and the next minute you will be shocked that there is now a big fight between the characters, but then the next minute you’ll be laughing again,” he said. 

“My whole goal was to make the show life, and that’s how I find life to be … completely tragic and incredibly hilarious, both at the same time.”

This is Living is directed by Malthouse Theatre artistic director Matthew Lutton, with actors Marcus McKenzie, Wil King, Belinda McClory, Maria Theodorakis, and Michelle Perera.•

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