Theatre Research International


From Bogeyman to Bison: A Herd-Like Amnesia of HIV/AIDS in Theatre?1



Queer theorists from across a broad range of disciplines argue that we are in a ‘normalizing’ or ‘homonormative’ period, in which marginalized subjectivities strive to align themselves with hegemonic norms. In terms of LGBTQ rights and representation, it can be argued that this has resulted in an increased visibility of ‘desirable’ gays (monogamous – ideally civil-partnered, white, financially independent, able-bodied) and the decreased visibility of ‘undesirable’ gays (the sick, the poor, the non-white, the non-gender-conforming). Focusing specifically on the effects of this hierarchy on the contemporary theatrical representation of gay HIV/AIDS subjectivities, this article looks at two performances, Reza Abdoh's Bogeyman (1991) and Lachlan Philpott's Bison (2009–10). The article argues that HIV/AIDS performance is as urgently necessary today as in the early 1990s, and that a queer dramaturgy, unafraid to resist the lure of normativity or the ‘gaystreaming’ of LGBT representation, is a vital intervention strategy in contemporary (LGBT) theatre.

(Online publication August 30 2011)

alyson campbell ( is a lecturer in Theatre Studies at Brunel University London, and a director. She is co-convenor of IFTR's new Queer Futures working group and was founder and director of the Queer at Queen's research and performance programme as part of the annual OUTburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast. Her research, practice and teaching share a focus on experiential theatre, affect in theatre, gender and queer theories and performance practices, dramaturgy and contemporary performance analysis.


1 My heartfelt thanks to Lachlan Philpott and the cast and crew of Bison. And a long-belated thank-you to Reza, who really made me want to make theatre.