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Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne
February 22, 2017
This play's title is a suitably provocative teaser for what's in store on stage: it makes us think, but should we be offended, or smile at its playful interrogation of these words? Declan Greene's script does all this and more, at breakneck speed. We are quickly introduced to an intentionally stereotypical gay couple in Sydney who are outraged by a menu item: faggots. Thus begins a fearlessly funny explosion of identity and language, in a world where both are fluid and polarised.
Simon Burke and Simon Corfield in The Homosexuals. Photos by Brett Boardman
The couple are randy Warren (Simon Burke), who is trying to seduce a handsome young straight man (Lincoln Younes), and Kim (Simon Corfield), a drama queen who spouts highly academic terms of gender and sexual identity as stress relief. As the music of Mardi Gras begins to pump off-stage – a reminder of both the queer community's reputation for tolerance, and the challenges of its inherent diversity – their friend Diana (Genevieve Lemon) arrives dressed as Bill Cosby. A white trans woman who swears like a sailor, she is on her way to a politically-incorrect-themed party. The pressure cooker, already shuddering with sexual desire, betrayal, self-doubt, lack of time, and a whole mess of identity politics, pops its lid when self-righteous queer activist Bae Bae (Mama Alto) arrives.
Mama Alto and Genevieve Lemon
A classic if twisted farce unfolds, complete with doppelganger-fuelled mistaken identity, the old couch-disappearing-into-the-wall-with-person-in-situ trick, slammed doors and increasingly outrageous costume changes, before the mashed potato eventually hits the fan – or, more accurately, a few cast members (kudos to whoever got the consistency just right, so it dripped onto the floor at dramatic intervals).
Simon Burke and Lincoln Younis
It's laugh-out-loud theatre that works because everything comes together just so: Greene's smart, finely tuned writing; Lee Lewis' direction, which shows wisdom and precision; Marg Horwell's set, an apartment that somehow makes a virtue of its awkward, compact layout partially in-the-round; and a wonderful cast that embraces the vices and virtues of their characters, and reveal keen comic timing (though clearly lots of rehearsal was critical). The standout is genderqueer performer Mama Alto, who is better known as a sultry, politically charged cabaret singer, but here shows off her comic chops as both the constantly offended Bae Bae – all rounded eyes and mouth – and her very different doppelganger.
The Homosexuals, or 'Faggots' is hilarious, but also thought-provoking and fresh. It brings farce into the 21st century by fearlessly tackling queer language, stereotypes and prejudices in a way that speaks volumes to people of every race, religion, gender and sexual preference.
This review was made possible by the generous donations of Limelight's readers through our Australian Cultural Fund project