Fag/Stag is a provocative and surprisingly melancholy examination of the friendship of a gay man and a straight man, in the month leading up to the wedding of their mutual ex-girlfriend. Australia’s Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs are superb; their immaculate comic timing and ability to repeatedly disarm an audience with unflinchingly intimate confessions combine to make this play a thoroughly engrossing blend of humour and social commentary.
One of Fag/Stag’s greatest strengths is the delicate balance it weaves between superficiality and emotional depth. We initially find little to empathise with in the characters of two stereotypically millennial men, whose main hobbies include drinking with ‘the boys’, bonding over video games, refusing to mature and swiping heartlessly through dating apps. Fowler and Isaacs are sharp and unsentimental as they delve into the repercussions of this lifestyle upon two vulnerable men uncertain about their future, struggling with emptiness, identity and intimacy.
At the heart of the play is the bond between a straight man and a gay man. Fowler and Isaac examine how this creates an unspoken tension and distance between the two friends, while also simplifying and solidifying their friendship. Both characters offer different interpretations of the same events, contradicting each other in how they interpret and choose to portray them. This is an amusing, insightful and creative take on the concept of an unreliable narrator, keeping the audience engaged throughout.
Fag/Stag is intelligently written, and Fowler and Isaac put on a stellar performance, salvaging meaning where – seemingly – it doesn’t belong, but remaining cautious of redemption-by-numbers. This is an honest play that will surprise you at every turn.
Words: Fraser MacIntyre
Picture: Cameron Etchells
Fag/Stag, Underbelly Cowgate, Aug 15-27, 4pm