REVIEW: Black Faggot (Auckland Fringe)

It’s all in the title [by Matt Baker]

Black Faggot
Black Faggot

With such a provocative title (faggot sits at number 9 on the Broadcasting Standards Authority’s list of 31 words ‘Not To Swear’), one would be forgiven if they were to presume that Victor Rodger’s Black Faggot was going to be an excessive bombardment of racial and homophobic rants from both sides of the social spectrum. However, as a straight white male, this, admittedly, semi-prejudiced preconception was pleasantly contradicted with what was an incredibly accessible show. Although Rodger’s script doesn’t necessarily bring any new arguments to the case against said issues, it compacts them into a specific set of cultural groups and focuses on their dealings with them.

 With an intentionally stripped back performance spectacle to allow for a focus on the content of the play, actors Iaheto Ah Hi and Beulah Koale, donned in black, appear on either side of the stage as the audience settles, before entering the empty space. Ah Hi immediately presents himself as an actor with great intensity, manifesting and morphing a great amount of power in his performance. Counterbalanced with Koale’s finely-tuned internal portrayals, the two make for a congruous on stage partnership. Add to this their professionalism (Ah Hi’s brilliant in-character cover-up of an already spoken line and Koale’s dance-dealing moves with an under the influence audience member) and one can only conclude that these two actors have established a solid foot-hold in the industry.

 Though not obviously under-rehearsed, the play suffers the same flaws as many fringe shows that are being presented for the first time as opposed to revisited, namely, a lack of theatrical polishing. The script is messy in certain places, but there is difficulty in differentiating whether this is due to Rodger’s text or the performers interpretation of it. There is also a lack of clarity in separating some of the characters, although the major character arcs work their way through the play nicely. Limited rehearsal time, a major symptom of fringe shows, could be an accurate diagnosis.

 Hot on the heels of the Auckland Pride Parade, the majority of the audience was of a particular mood and disposition towards the content and context and of the show. While this resulted in a great amount of vocal encouragement, it inevitably made me wonder who this play is for. Rodger states that the piece is a response to the statistically inevitable fact that there are closeted men and women marching in rallies that oppose the very nature of their being. Ah Hi’s Samoan mother character and Koale’s aptly named ‘Christian’ are undoubtedly the voices of this message, and the actors do absolute justice in honouring these moments, but, watching the audience, it felt somewhat wasted. It’s a sad fact that the people who should see this show the most, are the ones who probably won’t.

Black Faggot is presented as part of Auckland Fringe and plays at The Basment until 20th Feb. More details see The Basement.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Naomi Cohen

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4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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