Dating in 2019 is hard, but it’s even harder if you’re bisexual. Playwright and performer Sadie Clark knows about both all too well.
Her new play, Algorithms is a one-woman show about online dating, but is best described by Sadie as a, “bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation.” She adds, “It explores trying to find connections and satisfaction in a world that’s being defined more and more by our online lives. It looks at how comparing ourselves to other people on social media can impact on our mental health.”
Sadie, an experienced improviser and comedic performer is keen to tell me, “that makes it sound like super intense. It’s definitely a Comedy!” The comedy played to rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, a festival renowned for it’s relentlessness and Sadie has one bit of advice for anyone thinking of performing there next year, declaring, “napping certainly helped me a lot.”
Performances of Algorithms in Edinburgh were in the afternoon (helpful for sneaking some sleep in), but switched to the evening when it came to London earlier this month. Sadie feels the move to night creates a different atmosphere, saying, “some people have maybe had a drink and then they come and see the show and I think people are a bit more raucous with their laugh.”
In order to recreate the more informal vibe of an evening show, at some of her Edinburgh performances Sadie would have ‘relaxed performances’, which unsurprisingly resulted in some unprepared moments. “In the opening scene I reveal something rather embarrassing that’s happened to the character and someone in the audience went ‘Oh fuck’ and I did end up ad-libbing a tiny bit, making eye contact with that person and being like, ‘I know!’”
Despite being a one-woman show, Algorithms does follow a standard rom-com structure, but what makes it stand out is that the character, Brooke is bisexual. “it certainly follows the sort of three act narrative that most rom-coms follow and I guess there’s something about it that feels maybe quite mainstream or commercial in the story that it tells.” Says Sadie, “but I’ve never seen a very commercial rom-com with a bi character. So I suppose something that is maybe refreshing or different is that the protagonist Brooke is dating people of all genders”
Despite the play centering on a bisexual woman, Sadie didn’t want to make the show just about that. “Before I had any idea of what the show was going to be I just knew that I wanted the character to be bisexual and it wasn’t going to have anything to do with the story.” It isn’t embarrassment that stopped Sadie making bisexuality the main pull of the play, but instead her desire to normalise it.
“If your considered a minority group you’re often expected to tell the story of being you and why it’s difficult to be that minority.” Says Sadie, “I just felt really strongly that I didn’t want to do that, because average, straight white guys get to tell stories about all sorts of different things so I wanted to write a story about something unrelated to the character’s bisexuality.”
When she was testing out early iterations of the show she received feedback, saying, ”it didn’t feel queer enough.” A few years ago Sadie might have doubted herself, but this time she, “took a moment” and thought, ”it’s very much influenced by my experiences of love and life and dating and why does being queer or being bi mean that it has to be different”. She wanted to make it authentic and instead of othering her character, wanted to normalise, “the idea of dating multiple genders.”
The idea that Sadie is not queer enough is one that she has grappled with in her personal life ever since she came out. “when I first came out as bi and I hadn’t slept with anyone of the same gender as me, I felt this massive, massive pressure to do that in order to show that I was bisexual.” Says Sadie. “It’s taken a lot of time and work to try and get my head around the fact that you could realize that you were bisexual whilst in a relationship with someone of a different gender to you.”
Even when Sadie was single and out as bi, the questioning from others continued. She tells me that, “In that time I was still dating, having sex with people who were also cisgendered men, I did feel sometimes an external, not necessarily judgement, but a feeling from some of my friends that would say, “I’ thought you were supposed to be bi. So, why are you sleeping with men?’ Which is just completely ignoring what bi means.”
Looking and acting straight is the dominant representation in culture and is often celebrated and encouraged, whilst queerness is othered. This is different in the LGBT community where diversions from the norm are allowed to flourish. However, with more and more straight people frequenting gay clubs, it meant that for Sadie, it was in queer, female and non-binary spaces where she felt the most pressure to prove her sexuality. “I just felt this need to show I belong here. I am allowed to be here. I’m not like a straight tourist.”
This pressure early on in her process of feeling comfortable with her identity affected Sadie, and she tells me that, “when I first started going to these nights, I thought it was about like looking a certain way, maybe a little bit of it is signalling in those spaces as well.” Sadie says this pressure has subsided and that “now, my signalling would probably just be massively making eyes and and then going up to them and being like, ‘hi, I’m Sadie’.” A bold move in these modern times.
Like most of us, Sadie is still trying to figure out how to deal with biphobia in both straight and queer spaces, but for the time being she has a more elegant solution: “now I just have a big badge that says ‘still bisexual’.”