Book Review: Black Faggot and other plays, by Victor Rodger

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_Black_Faggot_Reading playscripts is something I used to do for pleasure as a teenager. (Fair to say I was maybe a bit besotted with theatre then, not to mention being a bit of an oddball as well!)

So putting my hand up to read some about 60 years later is either a sign of regressing, or a renewed interest.  I’m going for renewed interest.

It was absolutely fascinating to read a script again. Victor Rodger certainly packs a punch in his dialogue, but it’s what lies beneath the script that provides the real substance – values, stereotypes, pre- and mis-conceptions are all challenged in these three plays.

They are sometimes shocking, often funny, and above all they challenge the reader in many ways, so I can only guess at the power which must emanate from the stage productions when the challenge is really laid down.

Black Faggot, (the book title, and the first play) grew from a response to Destiny Church and their position on same-sex marriage, and it’s a powerful and thought-provoking work. VUP has kindly allowed me to quote from the comments by Tanu Gago:

‘I never understood what it took to love another man until I was transformed by the love of another man…………………….on the other side of all that pain and fear we are also capable of experiencing real love. The type of love that saves our lives.’

This, to me, is the essence of Black Faggot. There is a very positive message here for young men, in particular, struggling with their gender identity.

The other plays, At the Wake and Club Paradiso give equally thought-provoking messages. At the Wake shows the difficulty some of us have with acceptance of the other, in whatever shape or persona that comes, and again is a deeply moving play.

Club Paradiso challenged me more; the violence is too much for me and the play shocked me deeply on several fronts – the mindless violence, fuelled presumably by methamphetamine, the sexual bullying and the graphic details depict a kind of place where, fortunately, I have never been. However the play has a innate truthfulness, and that is perhaps why I struggled with it – as a straight pakeha woman of a certain age, I hate to think that behaviour like this exists, even though I know that it does.

More power to Victor Rodger, is all I can say. It takes a brave and accomplished writer to deliver work like this.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Black Faggot and other plays
by Victor Rodger
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776561032

 

 

Advertisements

The ACB with Honora Lee, by Kate De Goldi, adapted by Jane Waddell

Circa_TheACBWithHonoraLee_website_hero_940x270px_1.2-940x270I was lucky enough to go along to the world premiere of the Vivien Hirschfeld Season of The ACB with Honora Lee on Saturday night. Originally published as an award-winning junior fiction novel by Kate De Goldi in 2012, it was adapted in 2014 for a radio reading by Jane Waddell. The relationship between Perry and her grandmother Honora Lee struck a chord with Waddell, and led to her creating a play from the book.

Perry does piano on Monday, after-school tutoring on Tuesday, clarinet on Wednesday and music & movement (M & M) on Thursday, at least until her teacher for M & M hurts her back and it is cancelled for the rest of the term. Perry and her Dad visit Honora Lee, his mum, in her new nursing home on Saturdays, and Perry has the great idea that she should visit Honora by herself on Thursdays. Honora has Alzheimer’s, and her mind is scattered – but with each word she loses, Perry creates a new entry in the ACB that she is writing with the old folks at Santa Lucia.

The staging, graphics and music were perfect. The first thing you see and hear is a bee, then Perry, drawing a bee in her book. The first conversation her parents have as they join her is about how many bees are around, dead and dying, this summer. The theme of bees carries through the play, as Perry and her nanny’s son Claude keep a collection of dead bees that they examine regularly.

cv_A_B_C_with_Honora_leeWaddell has adapted the book extremely faithfully, down to the lines that each character says in many places. Perry’s frustration with her busy parents – “Only children must be kept busy” – was obvious through her Tourettes-like outbursts, whenever she was frustrated. Lauren Gibson played Perry extremely well, making her age clear and her showing her eccentricities perfectly. If you are reading the book in preparation to see the play, you will note a couple of discrepancies from the source, but they add to the play’s drama.

Perry’s relationship with Honora Lee (Ginette McDonald) was believable and natural, and the other characters from Santa Lucia are fantastic for adding comic and dramatic tension. I particularly enjoyed the male characters played by Nick Dunbar. The graphics of the alphabet as Perry creates it with those at Santa Lucia Nursing Home, are just right for a 9-year-old girl, and added to the story well.

Throughout the play, Perry adopts phrases from her Grandma and others around her, something I remember doing at that age (I learned “Oh My God” from my grandma). So I was amused near the end when a 9-year-old girl behind me whispered to her mum “has she passed away?”, as that is one of the phrases the adults use to dissemble the death of some of Honora Lee’s friends.

You should go to The ACB of Honora Lee if you enjoy the workings of family; if you can see the light in the dark side of life (and death) and of course, if you love Kate De Goldi’s work. It is a very special experience, and one that shouldn’t be missed. I think it is suitable for kids, those aged 7 and up would enjoy it, though older kids will understand more of the subtle humour.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The ACB of Honora Lee
by Kate De Goldi, adapted by Jane Waddell
Circa Theatre 40th anniversary season
Book here for: 27 February – 20 March 2016 – tickets are available as part of the New Zealand Festival
Tuesday – Saturday 6.30pm
Sunday 4pm