It’s a tough life when you have to go to Bali for a research trip. But theatre duo Chris Isaacs and Jeffrey Jay Fowler have endured the pleasures of paradise for their art form.

“We were exhausted at the end of the seven days”, said Isaacs, in all seriousness. “We tried to cram in every activity you can possibly do on Bali. And we learned that Bali tourism offers absolutely everything, it is a palette for tourists to construct what they want the island to be.”

Bali
Chris Isaacs and Jeffrey Jay Fowler as Corgan and Jimmy in Bali

Isaacs and Fowler used their holiday material to create a two-man show called Bali which explores privilege, class and the tourist in us all. The show is a companion piece to their hit show Fag/Stag which premiered in Perth in 2015 followed by seasons in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Edinburgh. Fag/Stag explored a masculine friendship between a gay and a straight man. Isaacs says Bali continues exploring the characters of Jimmy and Corgan a few years older and wiser.

Bali is another episode in the lives of Jimmy and Corgan. It takes a similar form of two narrators who aren’t reliable which gives the audience two different sides of the truth.”

Isaacs and Fowler have been working together in theatre for over a decade (most recently as part of the 7-piece team that make up The Last Great Hunt) and have co-written Bali which they will also perform together. The two-man show works well for Isaacs, who says his best work is exploring the grey between black and white.

FagStag
Jimmy and Corgan in Fag/Stag.        Photo Jamie Breen

“As an artist you have to ask what discussion are you creating? The audience for Bali can expect to be entertained because I want people to enjoy themselves at the theatre, but in Bali I also want to question my (and our) position of power and privilege and how it manifests. As a writer I don’t necessarily give answers but I don’t want to ignore it.”

Isaacs ruminates on how the power of money enables a tourist to choose their preferred experience of Bali, essentially constructing their version of a peaceful/party/paradise island.

“In Bali an average Australian wage can really expand a person’s experience of privilege and power. The person can construct the identity of another country to fit their version of a good time. Bali allows us to do that.”

In this semi-autobiographical show Jimmy and Corgan navigate cheap cocktails, awkward massages and disgusting tourists. “The biggest joke is on us”, Isaacs admits. “These are characters people will recognise and they are fun to watch.”

Bali runs October 18-28, Subiaco Arts Centre. Book tickets here.