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Fag/Stag

Audrey review: A comfort friendship between two young guys becomes a revealing study of male anxiety, loneliness and depression.

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Category: Theatre
Show: Fag/Stag
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Fag/Stag

Date: 19 Feb 2021

Perth guys Corgan and Jimmy are good mates. They’ve known each other since school.

Corgan comes from a wealthy family. He doesn’t need to work. He lives in a swish apartment bought for him by his mother.

Jimmy works as a charity chugger. He’s also gay.

They’re pretty close but each has issues they keep private or don’t know how to broach. Jimmy has just pulled the pin on a long-tern relationship and is trawling Grindr for distraction.

Corgan is struggling to find meaningful connections beyond casual Tinder hook-ups and beery nights with his partnered friends. His regular guy sang froid masks burgeoning mental health problems.

They hang out at Corgan’s place mostly, playing Donkey Kong. Theirs is a comfort relationship – one of few words and unacknowledged depths. When they speak to each other it’s usually in monosyllables or via text messages.

When speaking to the audience, however, they are completely candid, though they tend to offer very different perspectives on the messy series of events leading up to the wedding of a girl they’ve both dated. As they do so, we see how their lives are impacted by loneliness, hook-up culture, homophobia, anxiety and depression.

The writers of Fag/Stag, Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs, performed the piece at the Stables Theatre three years ago and did so definitively. This production, featuring Samson Alston and Ryan Panizza in the unprepossessing basement space of the nearby El Rocco feels unavoidably second-hand. But with an excellent script to play with, Alston and Panizza quickly win over the trust of the audience and prove themselves very capable actor-storytellers.

Alston backs up a good showing in a recent production of David Mamet’s The Shape of Things with a quietly convincing portrayal of a privileged young man adrift. Panizza, a recent NIDA graduate, demonstrates some very finely tuned chops as the more effusive and confident of the two characters.

Both could cultivate a closer, more directly sharing relationship with the audience, perhaps, given that it is arranged so closely around them in this tiny space. And I know it’s Mardi Gras Festival and all that, but the shirt-off moments engineered by director Les Solomon feel a touch cheapening – even in a production with nothing much else to look at.

The climax of the piece feels a little forced maybe – a bromantic moment straight out of the romcom playbook – but not unearned.

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