The play is very funny, and very offensive, but in Homosexuals, or ‘Faggots’ that’s the point. Matthew Wade spoke with performer Mama Alto about the farcical play and why it’s important.
WHILE the definition of a homosexual is relatively clear-cut, the definition of a ‘faggot’ is slightly more ambiguous.
Whatever the intent behind using the word may be, it’s being used in playwright Declan Greene’s latest offering The Homosexuals, or Faggots as a means to highlight the discrepancy in privilege between gay white men and those often left on the fringes of the LGBTI community.
Set on the night of Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade, the play is a comedy of errors that sees a handful of queer characters try to survive the night with their politically-correct reputations intact by negotiating a number of moral minefields.
One of the stars of the show is actor, jazz singer, and cabaret artist Mama Alto, who plays two comical roles in the production to great effect.
They believe the play is far less about answering existential or ethical questions around privileges in the gay community, and more about posing them.
“Well I know from the point-of-view of the play, it’s work that aims to provoke questions rather than to provide any answers,” they said.
“Definitely from my reading of it the questions are around language and offence – who has the ‘right’ to offend, who’s punching up, and who’s punching down, in terms of intersecting privileges and pressures within the community itself.
“It’s an extremely incorrect comedy being used as a way to highlight the hypocrisy of white, upper-class gay men for whom the be all and end all of gay rights is marriage equality and their right to freedom of speech.”
Alto added that this push by many privileged members of the gay community to their right to freedom of speech is often at the expense of the less visible members within the LGBTI acronym.
“That group often throws others in the community under the bus, or disregards them” they said.
“In particular trans and non-binary people are often left behind in the movement, while mainstream straight society are being led to believe that marriage equality is the be all and end all of LGBTI rights.”
Alto said it’s important to see the crux of this “trans rage” in a mainstream theatre production as it often goes ignored.
“To me it’s such an important thing to see that kind of voice on the main stage of a commercial theatre performance,” they said.
“Trans and non-binary people don’t get that kind of amplifier or megaphone to speak to the broader community.
“And to quote the play – so often that normalised, white, cisgender, and upper-class voice drowns us all out.
“Not to say those issues aren’t important, it’s to say hello we’re here too and we can’t sit at the back of the bus anymore. Sometimes we’re being thrown under it to advance others.”
Alto said the play is a controversial and offensive piece of work in the tradition of a farce or comedy.
“Declan [Greene] has very cleverly and subversively used offence in a way that’s meaningful and serves a purpose,” they said.
“I think about the work in Australia and if you were to ask someone involved in performing arts to name a trans, non-binary, or gender diverse performer that’s a household name, they would struggle.
“This play forms part of the shift we need to start changing so that we’re at the forefront of visibility and so that our stories are told with us present.”
The Homosexuals, or ‘Faggots’ is now showing at the Griffin Theatre until April 29. You can purchase tickets at: www.griffintheatre.com.au.