In theatre, the concept of an unreliable narrator is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Dating back, in a rudimentary form, to Aristophanes’ The Frogs, the concept is a classic form of withholding information from the audience, often to divulge it later in some dramatic reveal. However, Fag/Stag did something with this concept I have never seen before: it created two separate narrators, made it clear they were both unreliable, and then had them describe the same few days’ events. Facing two narrators off creates an intriguing dynamic. The information divulged, or more pertinently, not divulged, by each narrator twists the events to their perspective, putting them on the moral high ground, only to be undercut by the other. It’s a superbly interesting concept for a play, one which is observed and executed well in this sixty-minute piece, but holds interest so effortlessly it could be easily developed into a more long-form piece.
‘The writing in Fag/Stag is utter genius’
Jimmy is a gay man going through a breakup with his boyfriend. Corgan is a straight man, still in love with an ex-girlfriend. Both have secrets, desires and opinions they want to keep from one another, twisting the truth to their version of events. The writing in Fag/Stag is utter genius. The staging is quite simply two chairs, where two men sit and tell their story, there’s very little visual stimulation here, yet the writing keeps you entertained and invested. Working with a brilliant concept, Fag/Stag creates a finely tuned, believable story as both Jimmy and Corgan fall from grace, and although that may sound a little sordid, it’s worth noting that whilst presenting a script dealing with so many issues, the production is intensely comedic. Bold and uncompromising yet hilarious, Fag/Stag is side-splittingly funny whilst packing an emotional punch.
Having been performed around Australia for over two years now, perhaps it should be expected that the two performers should be well-drilled in their performances. And they are; executing realistic and empathetic performances throughout. Carrying emotional heft with uncompromising comic timing is a tough task, particularly when your stage is bare, with just two chairs to speak to the audience from. Perhaps that’s the production’s only downfall. A constant static nature allows the performers to shine, but with a bit more experimentation and interest in the movement may boost the production to greater heights and successes. As it is, Fag/Stag is an astutely written masterpiece, encompassing the human condition in two simple, but fundamentally differing, narrators.
Underbelly Cowgate, 3rd – 27th August (not 14th) 16:00
Image: The Last Great Hunt