Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Homosexuals or 'Faggots'

Griffin Theatre Company in association with Malthouse Theatre presents, THE HOMOSEXUALS OR 'FAGGOTS' by Declan Greene, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. 17 March - 29 April.

THE HOMOSEXUALS OR 'FAGGOTS' is a new Australian play by Declan Greene. Mr Greene gave us EIGHT GIGABYTES OF HARDCORE PORNOGRAPHY, in 2014, and we have seen other work under the banner of Sisters Grimm (LITTLE MERCY; SUMMERTIME IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN) around the other Main Stage theatre spaces in Sydney.

The audience are anecdotally told by two men of a recent event in their lives: These two homosexual men at the end-of-a-night-bender are desperate to eat something, and knowing that the food haunts of the Cross are closed, go into a 'low-end' eatery in a pub that happens to be still serving food (where could that be?). Flying high on whatever has fuelled their night out, along with their dense sense of Gay Privilege, a relatively successful commercial professional, Warren (Simon Burke), who lives in the Cross in a million dollar 'shoe-box' apartment which he has designed, and his partner Kim (Simon Cornfield), a flamboyant advocate and practitioner of gender studies, discover on the menu in this out-of-the-way eatery, a dish called Faggots. Well, they scream out about blue-bloody-discrimination, that has been painfully and instantly triggered, blue-printed from the emotional recall of their past lives and raise a havoc including the throwing of dishes that result in a hospitalisation and law intervention.

Going to the Dictionary for faggot we find several meanings: 1. a bundle of sticks, twigs, or small branches, etc. bound together, used for fuel. 4. a ball of chopped meat, esp. pork offal, mixed with herbs, bread or oats, etc., and eaten fried or baked. 6. Colloq. a male homosexual.

Fuel, food and 'life style', all three, are compacted in the meaning of the word: faggot.

Talk about language appropriation, labelling, and the right to freedom of life choice/style, and oh, freedom of speech.

Bang: we are now in this tiny, white, many-doored apartment (Designer, Marg Horwell) on the Mardi Gras parade night - we hear the passing parade from outside through the bathroom window (Composer and Sound Design, by Steve Toulmin). Warren, the older gentleman, has arranged for a clandestine 'photographic' session with a hunky Jewish boy, Lucacz (Lincoln Younes), the perfection of his fantasises, that is interrupted by the unexpected return of his partner Kim, that results in a kind of chaos, that is compounded by their friend, an hysterically passionate trans-gendered Diana/Bill(?) (Genevieve Lemon) arriving for a pre-party meet-up, the unexpected arrival of a political activist reporter, Bae Bae (Mama Alto) to whom they try to keep-up-politically-correct-appearances, despite their party costuming, and a local low-life house burglar, Pam (also, Mama Alto) - and oh, have I mentioned the large bag of cocaine?

This has all the elements of a political satirical Comedy, given the class (monied class) and predilections of all the participants, verbal and otherwise - especially verbal - that has made, with the additional experiment of form by Mr Greene - enamoured by the tradition of Farce, exemplified by the French playwright, Feydeau (A FLEA IN HER EAR) - THE HOMOSEXUALS OR 'FAGGOTS' into an escalated attempt at writing a modern Classic Farce.

Comedy is hard. Farce is harder. Mr Greene with the help of Director, Lee Lewis, nearly pull it off. The emotive and offensive verbal 'camp' comedy (the level of offence taken will depend on your cultural familiarity) tires after some 20 minutes, taking the play into a kind of over-kill lull that, given time, then, suddenly, cranks/jerks into spirited action with the whirring-up of the physical farcical action of door slamming, couch hiding and costume changes until it explodes with bangs and smoke, that, as it clears, gives room for a wonderful coda, a sting-to-its-tail finish to the play, via a withering and impassioned speech from one of the frazzled characters, 'calling out' the entitled hypocrisies of a certain body of contemporary homosexual who are either ignorant of their history or are in systemised, deliberate amnesia, camouflaged in a rage-filled fug of PC language circumlocution - they doth protest too much!

The three principal protagonists created by Mr Corfield, Lemon and Burke are wonderfully sustained and expertly committed performances. Mr Younes is 'ripped' enough to bedazzle anyone's physical fantasies - gay or straight! While, the weakness in the production, maybe, in the casting of a cabaret artist, Mama Alto - no matter the achievement - in a pivotal dual role, in the most difficult of theatre form: FARCE, that really demands an actor of some experienced skill to pull off. (Is it this casting problem, or the writing, that creates the Lull I felt in the performance, with the appearance of Bae Bae and, subsequently, Pam?)

Ms Lemon is crystal clear in delivering the coup de grace speech of the play whilst Mr Burke, simultaneously, brilliantly, in silence, sitting in a spotlight (Lighting Design, by Trent Suldgeest) seems to be recalling, as Warren, the 'lost' gay history of the Sydney experience that was the cause and the reason for the origin of The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in 1978: the historic cultural discriminations (secular and religious), the social persecutions/tortures (emotional/physical bullying/bashings), the legal recriminations (jail or asylum), and the medical deaths of generations of humans (suicide and HIV) - that have, relatively, faded in focus with the wallow of the affluence (effluence) of the entitled mood and corporate clutter of today's parade and participants in its shrill need, in my long comparative memory, for exuberant frivolity instead of remembrance - or, is it a subterranean hysteria of guilt/shame - that permeates the event, today?

Mr Greene is an exciting young, contemporary writer, unafraid of controversy in his social interests and content, and up to the challenge of the glorious and many varied forms of dramatic writing, in this instance the honourable farce. THE HOMOSEXUAL OR 'FAGGOTS' is not quite up to the verbal, physical and cultural heritage brilliance of the high water mark of this kind of comedy: WHAT THE BUTLER SAW, by Joe Orton, but it is close. (The last merited attempt at Australian Farce, to my mind, is Joanna Murray-Smith's THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, written in 2006, and still not seen in Sydney. Odd?) If you look for our new writers this play is worth catching, to ignite faith and hope for the future. It is only 80 minutes, no interval, long.

The production, first seen in Melbourne, is a month late to co-incide with this year's Mardi Gras Parade (4th March) but is a significant marker for when the powers-that-be plan the 40th Anniversary of that first Civil Disobedience Parade in 2018.

1978-2018. Forty years!

How TIME has moved and shaped some lives. All our lives, perhaps. Indeed.

1978, worth remembering properly. Less We Forget. Thank you Mr Greene, Ms Lewis, and especially, Ms Lemon and Mr Burke.

Go, see this play.

P.S. It seems Malthouse Theatre from Melbourne have their finger on an exciting Artistic Pulse, when one recollects that they have co-produced two of the best production provocations  seen in Sydney so far this year: AWAY, with the Sydney Theatre Company and now THE HOMOSEXUALS OR 'FAGGOTS' with the Griffin Theatre Company. Congratulations Matthew Lutton.

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