Queen written by Sam Brooks and directed by Harry McNaughton is on at TAPAC from the 13th until the 16th of February.
Having seen Queen in its previous season at The Basement, I was prepared for the unusual structure of the play, which is more like a series of stories that all revolve around the central theme of being a young gay guy right here, right now. I was also prepared to laugh heartily but to leave the theatre with red eyes and some serious shit to think about—and on this front, Queen delivered once again.
This latest incarnation of Queen, directed by Harry McNaughton, is a slicker, more focused version of what came before. The cast of four has expanded to six and the lone female character has been rightfully cast out (this is the only time I will ever support the removal of a female character, but as there is no female voice written into Queen, having one female actor was simply confusing), giving the actors more opportunity both to interact and to own their monologues.
Queen does not adhere to one particular style of performance. Actors transition effortlessly from traditional monologue to Beyoncé dance routine (props must be given to Sam Christopher for this athletic sequence which received the biggest laughs of the evening) to a poetic stream-of-consciousness about fucking the captain of the first fifteen. At times it felt as though we were watching a stand-up show as actors delivered lines with perfect comic timing. Jeremy Rodmell and Hamish McGregor had this down to a fine art as they bantered about the Baby Gay phenomenon, sipping their pinot grigio as they did so and looking just like you might encounter them on any night of the week on Ponsonby road.
It was charming the way every actor stayed so present even when they were not the focus, laughing along with the audience at other actors jokes. It was this feeling of camaraderie the actors had with each other and with the audience that made me leave the theatre feeling like I had just had a rewarding conversation with every person at a big party.
The best moments came when the cast performed together, in particular when the actors began hissing and shouting one word over and over, from all four corners of the room: faggot. Actor Ryan Dulieu then spouted an accusatory monologue from the spotlight, curses spilling thick and fast as he replied to every person who has ever “thrown that word like a weapon” while the rest of the cast hulked ominously behind him, supporting his tirade with their wordless aggression.
Despite being a heterosexual girl watching a play about being a gay guy, I empathized with every character.
At the end of the day, Queen is about being allowed, being empowered to just be yourself. And that is the magical thing about Brooks’ writing. Even Queen, a play that consists entirely of gay men talking about being what they are, is relatable to everyone. The characters are more than just their sexuality, they are humans, and their feelings are universal.