EFR - Reviews of Gayface

Gayface

Fri 3rd – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Anna Marshall

at 08:56 on 7th Aug 2018

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Seeing Other People Productions come to Scotland with their brand new play 'Gayface', because they want to say something about LGBT representation in the theatre industry. Chet Wilson is lashing back against the casting of heterosexuals in homosexual roles merely to boost their repertoire: the practice of ‘gayfacing’. His production therefore fights stereotypical representation with… stereotypical representation.

This show features a share-bag of clichés. Hopefully SOPP actively decided to remove the third dimension to all their characters, regardless of sexuality, as an artistic choice: although this may well have been an accident. Top of the 2D list comes Amity Hanson when playing the role of director - the pashmina touting twerp who unoriginally declares “I’ll never understand the gays”. It’s a recognisable stock character that is relevant but crucially stale, and this play brings nothing new, other than as a self-affirming in-joke for theatre bods about how arrogant directors can be. Likewise, the hyper-heterosexual male lead played by Ethan Cockrill is another stock character that brings little originality to his levis-and-timberlands character. Make no mistake, Wilson is tarring his straight characters only with the same brush familiarly used to generalise homosexuals: but it’s a clear point that quickly becomes dull from the lack of characterisation it allows.

Seeing Other People are aiming to create comedy, and yet fall short. Leading role Hal is politically chosen to subvert norms by being gay and fat; but there are so many references to this that one questions whether we are supposed to be working towards normalising this, or merely mocking the fact that it isn’t normal. I wholeheartedly agreed with the line “The next person that makes a fat joke is gonna get punched”. It’s not equal representation if you’re constantly self-congratulating yourself for the burden of attempting it. Hal himself has moments of conviction, and his exchanges with London Bauman are occasionally even heart-warming and natural: but this is spoilt by the desire for light laughs, which force any moments of depth to be shallowly overperformed with fake crying and displays of unpersuasively camp behaviour. London Bauman is the only character acting with humanity and subtlety; providing the lone voice of reason in an otherwise chaotic assembly.

It’s lazily predictable and really doesn’t say anything new. Try writing a play with a fat, gay lead which doesn’t revolve only around the lead being fat and gay, and then we’ll be making some progress. As it is, 'Gayface' is a collection of moments designed for cheap laughs and easy shock, in substitution for original drama: or is this modern satire?

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Amy Barrett

at 09:16 on 7th Aug 2018

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The term "gayface" describes people who fake their own sexuality for critical acclaim. This is effectively the plot of Chet Wilson’s ‘Gayface’. Straight over from the Atlantic, Seeing Other People Productions present the story of Hal, an actor, making his big break in the theatre world. But there is a problem: Hal has not one, but two strikes against his “leading man ability” because he is both gay and overweight.

Whilst I found the production pleasant to watch, the plot lacked significant depth. The themes of sexuality and appearance within the male acting industry are so interesting and in need of discussion but I feel Wilson wasted an opportunity to do so. Hal follows the path toward self-appreciation and body confidence, yet the potential peaks and troughs of his journey are ignored. The entire premise of the play is that Hal is too afraid to admit to his colleagues he is gay, however his confession is stated completely matter of fact with no emotive crescendo. With this being the play’s key theme, I felt disappointed that I was rushed through Hal’s progression to full confidence when it could’ve been a poignant performance with moments to reflect.

Perhaps this was caused by the pacing. ‘Gayface’ would have felt a lot more genuine if Amity Hanson, London Bauman and Ethan Cockrill simply reduced the speed of delivery. Hurtling through dialogue with few pauses never allowed moments of poignancy to build, which could have crucially increased the play’s success. Amity Hanson’s multi-rolling however was generally sound. Her vocal expression and physical mannerisms notably differed in her portrayals of Hal’s confidante and the role of the director, frequently making it easy to forget she was multi-rolling. I must also commend Wilson’s portrayal of Hal: the tone of his voice was perfect. He made no effort to mimic the stereotypical voice of a gay man, a characteristic he also manipulated into his body language and dancing. Yet, I do feel, like the rest of the cast, he missed opportunities to create moving theatre. The script provided openings for Hal to truly present his feelings to the audience when he cries to his best friend about being a "gayface" and when he comes out to Robert. But Wilson passed these chances by with unconvincing crying and hiding his face from the audience.

Another problem was the production’s blocking. The venue meant that the audience were sat around three sides of the stage, and the actors didn't make sure they could always be seen. And when multiple characters were onstage they tended to stand in a straight line meaning those at the sides would often miss the action.

‘Gayface’ is still a production I found easy to watch: the story is unique, if underdeveloped, and no individual performance is bad.

However, I feel Seeing Other People Productions have missed an opportunity to create an emotional piece of theatre that explores the place of gay and overweight men in the acting industry.

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