The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions ★★★ Southbank Centre | January 25 - 28, 2024

From its very title, we are put on notice that this is theatre that intends to be provocative. The show ambitiously sets out to reclaim not only its title epithet, but to give a challenging interpretation to LGBTQ+ and minorities' history. Based on a cult book, the narrative posits that there was once a golden age when genders and races lived in harmony. However, this Edenic period degenerates into an epoch called Ramrod when the stereotypical Men demand conformity to a narrow definition of social acceptability, and minorities are persecuted. Following this obviously repressive era is a period in which those who do not conform are co-opted into the society of Ramrod with false acceptance based on lures like marriage equality and material reward. The thesis is that the real goal must be a revolution that will return humanity to the utopia of equality and true acceptance that once existed. This revolutionary argument and its presentation take us back to the roots of avant-garde theatre with Alfred Jarry, and when it works it is quite powerful. The opening with a single performer humming is magnetic and some of the almost operatic interludes are quite enthralling. However, the breaking of the fourth wall to get the audience singing along doesn't really work. If its intent is to take the audience out of their traditional role as passive observers and bring them into the moment, it fails to do so. While the choreography is disciplined and the use of various instruments is impressive, the lyrics to the songs are often awkward and flat. The conclusion is also a bit of a letdown leaving the audience confused. We were all expecting a rousing call to arms à la the conclusion of Les Misérables' Act I (okay, maybe a bit too lowbrow for this piece). Still, it seemed like an attempt was being made to create a stirring conclusion and the audience duly applauded, but then, we were given a rather downbeat coda of ritual flagellation. The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions attempts a lot, and when it succeeds it is riveting and thought-provoking. However, if its theatrical goal is to inspire the downtrodden to recognise their lot and rise up against oppressive conditions, it didn't leave us ready to mount the barricades.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Camilla Greenwell

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