Arteries by Ancestry: How does hyper-masculinity affect queer relationships?

Performer and playwright James McMillan is set to make his directorial debut with The Blue Room Theatre this month, with his original work Arteries By Ancestry.

McMillan is no stranger to the stage, performing in Iota & The Average Joe during Fringe World and So You Think You’re Charlie Smith as a performer. McMillan also took his piece Paradise to Adelaide Fringe, looking at gym as church – a concept not too far removed from reality for some.

Speaking with OUTinPerth, McMillan says the new work explores queer relationships, but it’s the power of hyper-masculinity and the role that plays in same-sex couplings that forms the crux of the play – told in the style of both theatre and dance.

“At the centre of the story it’s looking at a father-son relationship, and how that affects the son’s relationship with his partner. The father really embodies the idea of what masculinity is, and seeing how that affects a queer relationship.”

The work focuses on the role of masculinity in male-to-male relationships, working through the lens of society’s expectations of men, rather than homophobia specifically.

“It’s looking at how same-sex relationships work in a patriarchy, in gender [roles], and how that is passed down through the generations.”

McMillan has worked with the strengths of his performers in the two-hander, fusing their experiences as a dancer and actor respectively to create the final work.

“One is predominantly a dancer, who has never had an acting role before and the other is an actor who has had some movement training. It’s really a beautiful way to show the inner workings of the protagonist, Avery (the son). We were really able to go inside his mind and have it manifested in the physicality and the dance… it’s able to say a lot more. Words can say so much but these images say much more about the character’s journey.”

McMillan hasn’t omitted dialogue entirely though, explaining there are many moments where the text and movement combine.

“It’s a really interesting form to be able to play with, especially with two performers from completely different backgrounds, it’s much more intriguing and special to watch.”

McMillan initially came up with the concept for the performance over a year ago, working closely with the two performers during the development process to create the final piece.

“There’s been a lot of collaborating to create a much more interrogative show. It’s great to come in to the room and try out script elements and go back and make changes. It’s been a really great back-and-forth.”

Though much has changed in the rehearsal stages, McMillan says at it’s core the story remains the same – initially inspired by a dream he had.

“There were all these white two-storey homes around a lake, and all these black plastic bags bobbing in the water. Going through the houses in the dream and seeing all of the people not taking any notice of the lake… being ignorant of all that was going on.”

“The environment (in my dream) was at this crisis point and there were links to masculinity. There’s a lot of ignorance to what’s going on underneath, strong facades that say ‘it’s all okay’ when there’s all this inner turmoil…”

Arteries By Ancestry will be at The Blue Room Theatre from Tuesday August 15 – Saturday September 2nd. Tickets and more information available from

The Blue Room Theatre are offering a special double offer along with their upcoming performance of Unveiling: Gay Sex for End Times. Click here to grab the deal!

Leigh Andrew Hill

Image:- Marshall Stay

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