|| Print ||
|Written by Joe Lipsett|
|Thursday, 28 January 2010 00:00|
The press notes for the new GCTC production, Bash'd! A Gay Rap Opera, reference the show's origins as a fringe performance. The two co-creators, Nathan Cuckow and Chris Craddock, have been working on the performance since 2004 when they performed one of the songs, "Grab Your Ass," at Edmonton's Loud & Queer Cabaret, but the idea came together as an hour-long production following the approval of the gay marriage Bill, C-38, and the proceeding string of gay bashings in Alberta.
Bash'd is the story of two Romeos, Jack and Dillon, who meet, fall in love, and get married. Then Jack is gay bashed, and the story becomes darker as Dillon vows revenge and events spiral out of control. The unique feature is that the story is narrated by two wisecracking gay angels, Feminem and T-Bag (all four characters are played by Cuckow and Craddock), who address the audience almost entirely in rap.
The concept isn't that difficult to conceive when you consider the historical roots of the musical genre and the purpose of the production. The gay movement has mirrored the rights movement of African-Americans, and Bash'd is eager to re-appropriate rap music from its current homophobic, misogynistic incarnations. Considering the play's social activism motives, it feels more than apropos to queer the genre in order to educate the audience about the importance of tolerance.
The larger question is, of course, aside from the novelty of using rap to tell a gay love story, is Bash'd worth seeing? The answer is definitely yes. Craddock and Cuckow have fashioned an energetic and entertaining hour-long experience that overcomes the familiar narrative tropes. The encouraging aspect is the accessibility of the material: despite the older-skewing nature of certain GCTC productions, Bash'd has a lot of cross-over appeal to younger (and queerer) audiences, in addition to the core theatre-going audience in Ottawa.
The pair utilize a now-standard shock and awe opening, reminiscent of films such as Shortbus, Moulin Rouge! and Saving Private Ryan: if you can survive the opening, you won't have a problem enjoying the rest of the show. In this case, the opening number is "Hands in the Air," a call to arms that encourages the audience to embrace both the themes of the play, as well as its use of colourful language and crass imagery. From that point on, however, Craddock and Cuckow ease the audience into the story of Jack and Dillon with "Grab Some Ass," a cafeteria-walk through of all the character types that frequent the gay bars.
The fact that the stage is dressed solely with two stools reinforces both Bash'd's fringe origins, as well as the calibre of Craddock and Cuckow's performance. The two have a seemingly boundless amount of energy (they cover the entire stage area throughout the production), and the lighting is particularly effective in conveying moments of emotions. If there is one drawback to Bash'd, it is the all-too familiar ending, which -- in true operatic fashion -- delves into distinctively melodramatic territory. However clichéd (gay activists may find it especially tiresome), the message behind Bash'd necessitates a certain amount of moralizing, which is more than worth it if it encourages more people to address their stigmas, stereotypes and hidden intolerances.
In short, there's a greater need for more people to get Bash'd.
Bash'd! A Gay Rap Opera plays at GCTC until January 31. Tickets can be purchases at www.gctc.ca or call the Box Office at 613-236-5196.