Few theatre-goers will struggle to relate to the experiences of bullying the protagonist of Fag Boy and the Married Guy recounts for audiences at La Mama over the next few days. This is a strongly developed story that explores – not terribly subtly – both bullying and the gay dating scene.
Now an adult living the dream with a great job, great house, and the means for a business-class tour of Europe apparently, William arranges a rendezvous with his high school tormentor through the gay dating app, Grindr. His objective, however, is not some no-strings-attached fun, but a serious dose of revenge, compounded by a decade or so of searing rage.
Benji Groenewegen is splendid as the scheming William (or, the Fag Boy of the title). Demonstrating a fine balance of aggression and vulnerability, he is entirely engaging and draws the audience’s full compassion despite the viciousness of his attack.
Matthew Candeland is likewise impressive in his role (yes, the Married Guy), moving more gradually from the cool and collected character he starts from to a fearful and repentant soul, completely consistent with his earlier persona.
Written and directed by Wayne Tunks, the play is somewhat autobiographical, at least as regards the experience of bullying and its effects. Of course, bullying affects everyone differently, but since the victims of bullies are not the most common of heroes in fiction, the character is nonetheless relatable, and stands as a hero for victims of bullying everywhere. In that regard the play is something of a dark fantasy, or perhaps, a call to arms?
However it is intended, it boasts a strong story, fully-developed characters and a subtle but strong building of tension over the exposition and crescendo. Unfortunately, it began to fall flat at that critical two-thirds point, and never recovered.
I’m not sure whether this is a long one act play or a short feature, but it fails to quite gain the traction its beginning promises, and it really could do with further development: it really wants to be a feature. Despite a twist ending, it remains predictable. The potential for this story to have gone somewhere more captivating is lost, and its ending is trite and uninspired.
Perhaps the confluence of its worthy themes is at fault; this play is as much about bullying as it is about the homosexual experience, and yet neither quite gets the attention it deserves. An opportunity to turn the plot into something deeper and more insightful is missed and the denouement kind of tumbles towards a wishy-washy ending that, despite being surprising and intelligent, doesn't do justice to the fine character and plot development that preceded it.
So while there is a lot to love about Fag Boy and the Married Guy, the one act format doesn't allow it to shine, and I'd love to see a rewrite where these characters journey somewhere more interesting.
Tunks Productions presents
Fag Boy & The Married Guy
by Wayne Tunks
Directed by Wayne Tunks
Venue: La Mama Theatre | 205 Faraday Street Carlton VIC
Dates: January 16 – January 27
Tickets: $25 – $15
Part of the 2013 Midsumma Festival