The political correctness debate comes up every few years, most often in the wake of civil rights developments and their accompanying conservative backlash. With the ascension of Donald Trump to the US presidency, political correctness has once more become a hot topic and a point of debate, one likely to stick around for the next four years, or at least until someone changes the POTUS twitter password. With that in the background, it couldn’t be a better time for The Homosexuals, or Faggots to shine.
Brought to us by one half of the queer theatre collective Sisters Grimm and written by Declan Greene, The Homosexuals tackles bipartisan hypocrisy, the bounds of political correctness (who has the right to offend and who has the right to be offended) and the absurdities that can arise along with identity politics.
The play starts with an anecdote – archetypal Darlinghurst-1.5-million-dollar apartment-gay couple Kim (Simon Corfield) and Warren (Simon Burke) regale the audience with a blow-by-blow account of an incident at a restaurant involving a menu item called ‘faggots’ (some kind of old English minced liver meatballs with gravy, for the uninitiated). The anecdote sets the mood and sign posts the whole point of the play, before the story itself begins.
It’s the night of Mardi Gras and Warren is going to a politically incorrect themed party with his transgender best friend Diana (Genevieve Lemon). But first, he needs to squeeze in a saucy and secret (from Kim, anyway) photo shoot with the dimwitted but gorgeous Lucacz (Lincoln Younes) and an interview with outspoken transgender activist Bae Bae (Mama Alto). The interview is especially important to Warren who runs an influential gay blog (The Daily Bulge) who’s success depends on the interview going off without a hitch. Kim, a gender studies academic, is equally stressed about the situation, wanting to be seen as appropriately progressive. Throw in a doppleganger thief, a missing baggie of cocaine and some very politically incorrect costumes and the farce almost writes itself.
Farce is often a tricky format to work in, relying heavily on perfect timing and body comedy, but The Homosexuals carries it off with ease, resulting in laugh-out-loud, side-clutching theatre. The bumbling and buffoonery includes food throwing (with perfectly time mashed potato drips, punctuating the drama), couch-in-wall disappearing, door-in-face-slamming and numerous sight gags. This is combined with elements of the Comedy of Manners, witty word play and social satire, to create a hilarious mixture of high and low comedy. Kim’s misinterpretation of a rightwing, islamophobic agenda through a gender studies lens is an especially brilliant scene and the truest moment of Comedy of Manners in the play.
Despite working in intentional stereotypes, the characters never feel passé. Burke is cringe-worthy and desperate in his pursuit of Lucasz, and Corfield perfectly captures the pouty whining of the gay elite. The two play off one another with eye-rolling, tutting casualness and their bickering, while ridiculous, feels real enough. Mama Alto, playing both trans rights activist and thief, is especially impressive, switching seamlessly and convincingly between her two characters through the curve of her spine and arch of her brow. Lemon – loud, crass and abrasive throughout – shines in particular during her final diatribe. A captivating moment towards the end reveals, for those who missed it earlier, the real question it’s asking. Diana, after having put up with Warren and Kim’s selfish woes all night, finally loses her temper and gives a searing monologue criticizing the blissful, selfish ignorance of privileged white gay men who’ve forgotten the fight and left their LBTQIA siblings behind.
Thought provoking and unabashed, The Homosexuals tackles issues around free speech, offensiveness, stereotypes, prejudice, the prominence of the gay marriage debate and the casual misogyny of privileged white gay men with irreverence and cheek. The Homosexuals is briskly cheeky, highly offensive and, in today’s world, especially relevant.