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Black Faggot | Edinburgh Fringe 2014

New Zealand may be a small semi-colon at the bottom of the world but the theatre that comes from Aotearoa is unapologetically loud and proud. NZ shares her stories without pretensions or shame and always with a whopping dose of colloquial humour. For example: Black Faggot.

It’s not an unfamiliar term, especially amongst the Pacific Island and Maori community. In fact, it’s often loaded with a multitude of accompanying epithets colourful enough to make even the regular readers of Urban Dictionary blush.

But while uncomfortable for some, the fact remains that when holding up a mirror to society it isn’t always easy to come face-to-face with the reality that stares back. And it is precisely this reality that is offered to us in Victor Rodger’s award-winning provocative work.

Packed into this explosive hour we are introduced to a range of Samoan characters: the confident older and wiser alpha male; the innocent youth trying to ‘pray the gay away’; the obsessive compulsive who has a massive hissy fit when his lover taints the bedspread; the successful fa’afafine who offers critical analysis into the power structures that have created hierarchies between the Palagi and the ‘eroticised other’; and of course a reluctant rugby player in training to please his Dad.

But perhaps the most compelling and central narrative of these multiple vignettes is the journey of James. An ‘undercover brother’ who falls in love and discovers that when he finally makes the decision to ‘come out’, his world doesn’t in fact fall apart in the way he expected. Because expectations, as the story proves time and again, aren’t always the most useful pieces of armour with which to insulate ourselves.

The play itself occasionally adopts a slightly didactic tone but always manages to bring it back home before the preacher gets to the pulpit.  Highly visceral sequences, injections of uniquely local humour and an attitude to life enables this work to rise above the sermon. Addressing equality, tolerance, family bias and societal insularities – Black Faggot accomplishes all this without ever pretending to be anything but what the story promises.

There is no set, both performers are dressed in black and occasionally the lighting is a tad distracting, but such is the energy and presence of Fasitua Amosa and Beulah Koale that the work needs little dressing. No gadgets, no gizmos, it is pure story that comes to life under Roy Ward’s compelling direction.

Working together in tandem, their dialogue is always well-paced, accompanied by physicality that is so well-defined it immediately transports us from story to story, rarely missing a beat. Together they are a dynamo and while some sections may be slightly less sophisticated than others, it only becomes obvious because of the overall quality of the performance.

Heart-warming without indulging in clichés, Black Faggot creates a new space amidst the plethora of shows at this year’s Fringe 2014.

Sharp, witty and so distinctively New Zealand, you’ll be left wondering whether Pak ‘n’ Save ships to Edinburgh. And how to convince your local music venue to play some tunes from Samoa and/or Kiwiland so you can bust out some of the new moves you learnt.

FOUR STARS
(Star rating required by Edinburgh Fringe)

#victorrodger #royward #gay #edinburgh #fringe

http://www.theatreview.org.nz/reviews/review.php?id=7282