A raft of LGBITQ+ themed workshops, events, and original works are headed our way and like they have for the past 25 years, New Theatre continues that tradition with new show, Angry Fags under the direction of Mark G. Nagle. Opening tonight, it runs through Sydney Mardi Gras season until 7 March.
Peculiar yet endearing, the stage is set for an over the top unravelling as we're taken into a satirical world of comedy amongst the backdrop of media hungry politicos and their spin doctors.
"It's laugh-out-loud stuff," says Mark "and has a lot to say about society in general and the present-day machination of living under Trump. Although written by a gay playwright and including several gay characters this is a play for everyone. Indeed it’s merely a story where the central characters happen to be gay. It is a tale about making a stand, regardless of consequence - and everyone can relate to that! Part camp romp, part thriller, it culminates in one helluva surprise ending."
Let's talk about that later because the set up in act one establishes great potential before it takes an unexpected turn. On the one hand, you might think it's true to form in gay attitudes to the mainstream and internally within the LGBTIQ+community, on the other, you might think it was like someone had to meat a tight deadline and just quickly wrote an ending to a well thought out start just to get it done. It needed some contemplation post-show that's for sure.
The show dances with themes of legacies in equality and collective responsibility versus individual freedom. Payne's writing establishes very well thought out characters that drift in and out of clichees presenting the flirtatious and loyal friendship between Bennet (Brynn Antony) and Cooper (Lachie Pringle). Some of the best moments throughout the play were just genuine honest conversations representing views and opinions many in the LGBTIQ+ community may have on pop culture topics and issues. These kind of moments in theatre are so rare and a sense of realness that doesn't exist anywhere else on the Australian stage. What's disappointing about these two characters is they take a turn I just couldn't get on board with in the end, because up until the second act the audience was rooting for them. Watch it - you'll see. It also might partly have to do with much of their heinous acts in the first act happening out of the audience's view. Antony and Pringle took the material and played very likeable characters finding humour in all their encounters in the story before crushing our hope and dreams of a happy ending with the reveal of hidden diabolical sides.
Engaging performances from the behind the scenes team of Senator Allison Haines' campaign team are peppered throughout the show softening the murderous sporting activities of Bennett and Cooper in the background. A seasoned actor, ex-Home & Away star, Tom Wilson brings an innocence to the determined career aspiring Adam which isn't fully understood until the end. People come across one way, pick their moments and then their true colours come out. It's a complex line to walk and for the actor to play when delivering this out on stage particularly when the sudden change in character is so rapid in the end, until we realise this is what he had in mind from the very beginning.
Phoebe Fuller's grand moment is chilling as the lead up to her grand finale was set up with some great one liners throughout the show living her life through her gay co-workers while juggling family life with two kids at home. The thoughts running through your mind when faced with that situation would be exactly those of her final words.
Ocasionally, the play opens out into ideological and historical debate. This is where Payne's talent lies. From the post analysis of American politics by Adam, to the dissection of optics and choice, it makes its arguments structurally when lesbian Senator Haines' (Meg Shooter) personal behaviour has to be compromised to satisfy the political game she's playing. Shooter's channels an honest workplace truth many of the audience will relate to.
It's a beautifully patterned play where empathy is almost built for the hard right character of Peggy. Monique Kalmar's soft southern tones and demeanor almost make it impossible to dislike the assertiveness in her beliefs. Almost. It was a very creative interpretation of a (we thought in the beginning) villain in the piece.
It's a stunning patterned production pulling together echoes and reflections of the LGBTIQ+ community with charming snapshots in young love, comradery and friendship that completely deteriorate and splinter in the second act. It asks the question on who we are as a community, the roles we play in enacting change and indictment of our actions when dealing with opponents and within our space in the community.
The great thing about New Theatre's productions are that it's LGBTIQ+ focused shows aren't necessarily exclusive to an LGBTIQ+ audience. Topher Payne's script explores relatable themes of double standards faced by women in politics and a hilarious expression of conservative republican and democratic views. The writing isn't pro or against and gives equal time to both sides.
Nagle directs with a gliding theatricality in Marta Rodriguez's contextual set design using just a park bench, lounge and desk set.
A fluid stream of scene changes uninterrupted through the 140 minute production (including intermission) with clever use of the stage through David Marshall Martin's lighting design as we're taken through different locations of the city of Georgia.
Vision (George-Alex Nagle) adds depth for off-stage events that take place through news pieces and sound (Glenn Braithwaite). It's a seamless live experience with a great display and foundation for the cast to catapult off in the first act.
Angry Fags opens tonight at New Theatre, 524 King Street Newtown season until 7 March.
Cast Brynn Antony, Phoebe Fuller, Monique Kalmar,
Lachie Pringle, Meg Shooter, Emily Weare, Tom Wilson
Director Mark G Nagle
Set Designers Mark G Nagle, Marta Rodriguez
Lighting Designer David Marshall-Martin
Costume Designer Bobbi Rickards
Sound Designer Glenn Braithwaite
Vision Designer George-Alex Nagle
Assistant Director Jarryd Prain
Assistant Lighting Designer Sam Rorke
Production Manager Mickie Miller