REVIEW: Queen (Smoke Labours Productions)

Sam Brooks does Queen so well.

Gay outing [by Sharu Delilkan]

Sam Brooks does Queen so well.
Sam Brooks does Queen so well.

Queen is a scream, a sass, a laugh, a cry, a voice. The publicity material’s description of Queen is spot on.

Although a re-staging of the show, Sam BrooksQueen is still unique in nature because unlike most coming out gay stories the focus is the emotional roller coaster of under 18-year olds. Despite its sometimes graphic nature, complemented by the subtle themes and messages being conveyed, I couldn’t help notice that the show has been given an R13 rating. Which in a way makes sense because it is important for young teenagers to be able to come and see this show, which provides great insight into this world that has not been explored as much on stage before.

Brooks’ writing in general shows a great deal of maturity not only in terms of language but his insightfulness is something that should be commended. He has the uncanny knack of talking about gay issues with such candor and honesty that it endears not only the gay community but also us heterosexuals because for the most part a lot of the themes are universal. Growing pains, identity crises, sexual exploration and the overall journey from teenage years to ‘becoming a full-fledged adult’ are all themes that everyone has in common. These are not emotional journeys that are exclusive to the gay community.

Another thing that makes Queen interesting and different is the fact that the show contains a lot of overt, graphic scenes both visually and orally. While many plays exploring similar gay themes talk about emotions and sentiments, Brooks has the courage to take it a step further by demonstrating the world of the gay person. The adage “actions speak louder than words” is one that holds true with Queen.

The six actors on stage who essentially play a series of monologues strung together by common themes are Edwin Beats, Samuel Christopher, Ryan Dulieu, Hamish McGregor and Jeremy Rodmell. Each of them has been given a series of characters to play which reveal heartbreaking personal stories of how gays, faggots, queens, queers, etc see themselves in the world and how society in turn sees and treats them. We are all too familiar with gays being portrayed as abused, downtrodden and dismissed but in this case Queen is different because it really went to the core of what it feels like growing up as a gay boy/man.

All the stories were clearly personal and heartfelt from the realisation or ‘outing’ of being gay, to the reality of unrequited love. Again as mentioned before these are universal themes which are not gay-exclusive, making Queen highly accessible.

Another key universal theme that shone through was that ‘not all gays are the same’ – that being good, bad, kind, loathsome, gentle, harsh, criminal, intellectual, genius, artistic, boring, alcoholic or sober are frequently almost indistinguishable, and are replaced simply by the label ‘gay’. Queen manages to show us how society has turned gays as a segment of society into nameless faces rather than valuable essential members of human kind. Led by Harry McNaughton’s realistic direction, the skilful actors equipped with Brooks’ pithy pearls of wisdom, demonstrate this very cleverly and effectively, giving everyone a rather candid view of a young gay boy/man’s inner thoughts.

Especially poignant was the message that it was society’s disapproval that initially forced the gay scene to go underground where they were not seen or heard. That of course has changed dramatically, particularly with NZ passing of the new Marriage Equality Bill where being out and proud is becoming less of a ‘stigma’.

The multiple staging around the room worked relatively well making us move from one level of emotion to another. However having recently been to see 360 – A Theatre of Recollections at the Civic I must admit I would have preferred to have been sitting on a swivelling chair rather than getting a crick in my neck each time the actors changed locations! But it’s definitely not a biggie in the scheme of things.

In a nutshell Queen is brilliantly written and acted and provides a great night of entertainment, but what sets it apart from other shows is its ability to teach humankind to be more human and more kind.

Smoke Labours Productions presents Queen as part of Queer@TAPAC and plays at TAPAC, Motions Rd, Western Springs until 16 February. More information at TAPAC

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Candice Lewis

And James Wenley’s review of Queen’s first 2013 Basement season.

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