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Review: Loud and Queer

Wed 15 Feb 2017 In: Entertainment View at Wayback View at NDHA

As the audience took their seats, on stage the performers were waiting under white bed sheets, giggling with flash-lights, something slightly reminiscent of a pre-teen sleepover. I settled into my seat for what I thought was going to be another theatre show that promises big things but doesn’t quite deliver.   Our first interaction with the performers is playful, they begin by joking around, asking each other why they became gay. Their answers become more and more ridiculous. No-one is ever asked when they began questioning their gender and no labels, other than gay, are used. With a lineup of talented performers and writers such as this, it had me thinking - surely there is more to this than meets the eye. This, if you pay attention, is where things start to get interesting . A skilful acknowledgement of perceptions is played out to perfection - the young performers are fully aware that by the older generations within the queer and gender diverse communities, this is how they are viewed, and silly me, of course they’re going to use it to their advantage. Yes they are young, yes they bold and what you soon learn is they certainly know how to deliver a brilliantly executed and articulate theatre show. With three pākeha performers in a cast of five, this is a show that recognises its privileges and plays to these so well. The dynamics of privilege is something constantly acknowledged by all performers, whether that be ability, gender or ethnicity. With a cast of brilliantly talented performers, each with their own particular style and strengths, we were treated to a showcase of spoken word, Shakespearean-esk theatre and hetero-drag that was almost too well acted. In my opinion, Manu Vaea and Nate Villanueva would have to be the stand-out performers on opening night and the interaction between them on stage was both gentle and powerful. Like all of the performers, their stories were raw and honest but perhaps most poignant was the way they held space. They had me hanging off their every word and wanting to snap my fingers like there was no such thing as RSI. As young, queer, people of colour, their voices are very rarely heard in this context - because in this context, their voices are rarely even acknowledged. At times I couldn’t help but feel Joni Nelson, Teddy Mason and Dominique DeCoco took up too much space in the show - something I think in many ways is a perfectly set-up dynamic, whether it is intentional or not. Mimicking societal structures while at the same time offering an intelligent critique is a powerful yet difficult skill to master - and the cast of Loud and Queer certainly do master it. Throughout the show there are a number of harsh realities that the cast bring into the spotlight, things that often get swept under the glittery wine-stained rug at Pride Festivals around the world. Among other things, the cast use humour to call bullshit on the Auckland Pride Festival, for its high-priced parties and attempts at diversity that they say don’t quite play out. Of course, Loud and Queer sits within the frame-work of the Auckland Pride Festival, is in the festival programme and is promoted by the festival. Which speaks volumes. The perfect opportunity to critique the system is from within the system. The performers bring attention to the struggles of young queer and gender diverse people in New Zealand; the alarmingly high suicide rates, the struggle for affordable housing and the rent-boys who are just trying to survive. The misrepresentation, underrepresentation and tokenisation of people of colour within our communities. Calling out queer and gender diverse media outlets and the organisations with big - yet selective -  pockets, the Ponsonby gays and a particular TV show that hasn’t quite got the hang of accurate representation. Calling bullshit on femme invisibility and privilege - like the white person who insists that you get their pronouns right while consistently mispronouncing a person of colour’s name. Loud and Queer was put together on practically no budget and with the knowledge of this, something rings loud and clear - give them a platform and what you’ll get in return is priceless. What should be said in the same breath though, is that this is the kind of show that needs to supported by those who can offer that platform, as well as a budget, because this is the type of show we need more of. While they were able to pull off this show with little budget that isn’t an excuse to let them continue this way, just imagine what they could do with more resources. This show will hit you like a tonne of bricks and if you’re anything like me, you’ll leave being glad it did. Loud and Queer is a bold show that we need to take note of, with hard-hitting truths there’s no holding them back. So let’s celebrate it and take it all in, there’s more than a thing or two we could learn from. Sarah Murphy - 15th February 2017    

Credit: Sarah Murphy

First published: Wednesday, 15th February 2017 - 4:28pm

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