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Black Faggot - review

Black Faggot - review

Jun 27, 2014 Theatre

Black Faggot
by Victor Rodger

Basement Theatre
June 26, 2014

Victor Rodger’s play about being Samoan, gay, and young has had a charmed run – several return visits to Auckland, plus Melbourne, Brisbane, Wellington and, soon, Edinburgh, though no word, as yet, about a season in Apia. And it deserves every bit of its success.

Rodger’s a very good playwright: he knows how to construct a narrative, how to let characters emerge, surprise you, entertain you, let you down (that’s a rare skill, right there) and build you up too. More obviously, he knows how to write funny, and he knows how to write on the edge. He’s done these things in big, complex work like Sons and My Name is Gary Cooper, but they’re no less evident in Black Faggot, a beguilingly simple two-hander, performed by a couple of guys in black T-shirts and pants on an empty stage.

Fasitua Amosa and Beulah Koale are both marvellously watchable as they present a whole lot of characters, mainly men – mainly Samoan gay men – although there is a mother in there, as they cycle through a series of episodes. Many are linked, and as the play develops we realise that it has at its heart the story of James. Gay, adult, taking his first steps out of the closet. “Oh, is this a gay bar?” James says, and then later, in a subtle, moving scene, teaches the man who picks him up how to dance.

Many of the scenes are linked thematically rather than narratively or directly through the characters, but it never feels lumpy. Roy Ward has directed with a sure hand, keeping things pacy, so that at times it almost seems the actors are bouncing at you with the next number in a routine. And that feels right: there’s a quiet and very determined pride running through this show, and it’s infectious. And yes, there is one song, and it’s fabulous.

Black Faggot is a bit confrontational, in the sense that both actors present the work staunchly. You’re not allowed to look away. And yet, it’s not remotely shocking.

It’s also, I thought, quite surprising in where it takes you. For a while I thought I was watching something that would end badly. Heaven knows, enough stories of marginalised and bullied young men do. But it doesn’t go that way. When James finally comes out, the play reveals its theme. “This is okay,” it’s saying. Not, “You have to let it be okay,” but simply, “We all get it. We’re good with it.” That goes for the god-fearing mum, and even more for the bench-pressing jock of a brother.

What Victor Rodger has discovered, or decided to believe, or decided to tell us (and basically they amount to the same thing) is that – in this country at least – we’ve moved past the phobia. It’s a little bit thrilling, really, the way he does it.

True for Samoa too? Will this play ever make it to Apia? And if it does, will that be before or after the All Blacks? Now there’s question.

Two nights left in this run, before they head for Edinburgh. See it if you haven’t yet. It won’t always come back, you know.

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