Male Bonding in ‘FAG/STAG’

FAG STAG Jeffrey Jay Chris Isaacs

Local writer/performer extraordinaire Jeffrey Jay Fowler is bringing to the stage a brand new work entitled ‘FAG/STAG’ for Fringe World 2015. “It’s about a gay guy and a straight guy and it’s very much about their friendship and I guess the politics of being friends with straight people and whether there is any politics.” Fowler explained.

The show is being co-written and performed by Fowler’s real life friend and fellow playwright, Chris Isaacs, giving the relationship of the two central characters authenticity. “My character begins the play by dumping his boyfriend and then proceeds through a bit of a slutapalooza across the month or so that the play takes place in and he’s in Grindr non-stop and then the other character, named Corgan who is played by Chris is on Tinder non-stop and is a bit of a wannabe player.”

Given that the show is co-written by real life best friends, one can’t help but wonder how much of the play is drawn from real life. “This is a terribly exposing question. Chris and I were comparing- because we write our own characters, so even though we’re co-writing, and we have a lot of say in the kind of storyline as a whole, we’re responsible for what our characters really say. And I’m certainly not my character. I’d hate to be my character.”

But, as Fowler explains, playing a character that you might not get on with in real life can be highly entertaining for actor and audience. “Everyone loves judging people. It’s actually a really pleasurable thing to do and I think that part of what ‘Fag/Stag’ is about is us presenting two characters with a kind of brutal honesty and letting the audience judge them and make a decision about what happens. The two characters are telling the same story, but they tell very different versions of it and then the audience kind of has to decide whether they think either narrator was reliable or unreliable.

“There’s a lot of stuff that would only appear in one person’s story such as sexual escapades, they don’t really talk to one another about their sex lives, and what they get up to and who they get in bed with is told to the audience. I think I’d be really wary of people watching the show and thinking they were finding anything out about my sex life. But at the same time, to be really honest there is a lot of truth in my character and I think a lot of the things that I feel.”

The play lends itself to authenticity not only in the development of the character but also in its setting. “In the first scene- the two guys go to Connections. It’s set in Perth, It’s a very real Perth, and they go to Connie’s together and I think some of the observations from that are my own observations transferred into my character and some of Chris’s character’s observations are the same. Definitely some of our thoughts rest in the characters but on the whole they’re not us. And there are flaws they have that we don’t have, and flaws I have that are purposefully removed because I don’t really feel the need to expose myself that much.”

Fowler shared that collaborating with Isaacs on the show has been a positive, if occasionally intense experience. “It’s been really good actually, we have a great time. We often just chat. We’ve been devising the show for a considerably long time, maybe a year now since the first conversations happened. I guess we were both inspired by this real life storytelling. We’ve seen a few different shows at different Fringes that used a form of just a very untheatrical, natural style, direct address to the audience, and we both really dig that. And I think also we’re both pretty neurotic guys who write journals.” he laughed.

“It’s fun! It’s also really depressing to make this show. I think one thing that we do both share to a degree with our characters is a sense of exasperation at the state of the world. Chris and I, we can be a bad combo together because we both can get pretty existential and morose. There are times when we hang out and we just brood and we get really dark and we can amplify that in one another which is sad. But then there are other times when we can lift each other up and rehearsals can be great fun.”

But above all, the pair are focused on making a show that’s engaging for an audience. “The fun part is then going back to the keyboard and undercutting it and putting satire in it and putting sarcasm in it and making fun of what’s on the page so that it’s palatable and fun and bright. We’re making a show that an audience can think about and really enjoy while they watch as well. ”

‘FAG/STAG’ is at PICA at 6.30pm from February 3rd-7th.

Tickets are available at www.fringeworld.com.au

Sophie Joske

Image: Jamie Breen

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