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Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

Dressed to distress

Ian MacNeill on Kiss my Fist

Brian Fuata, Karl Velasco, Shelley O'Donnell, Kiss My Fist Brian Fuata, Karl Velasco, Shelley O'Donnell, Kiss My Fist
photo Heidrun Löhr
The young and talented cast of Kiss My Fist were Brian Fuata, Hannah Furmage, Shelley O’Donnell and Karl Velasco—the Peripheral Vision Company. The context and theory were queer, as was made plain by the apologia in the program—“The title hints at the duality of the good/bad power to transform identity…” etc. Fortunately the work was also inflected with performative values. In the postmodern manner, Kiss My Fist was able to traverse its territory by invoking modernist dramatic traditions.
All the performers presented a character field: a lesbian who longed to be raised to the heights of serial monogamy by a straight woman (O’Donnell); a young Asian man dealing (à la Shirley Bassey) with the break up of his relationship (Velasco); and a Dorothy Porter-type serial killer/detective in a Working Hot world (Furmage). The locus of Fuata’s contribution is less easy to suggest, something he might care to consider; in any case he appeared as a rather anachronistic suburban dad with Elvis longings.

All were powerfully distressed. The audience was initiated into this by Mr Sixties Suburbs (Fuata) taking our tickets in an ecstasy of self-doubt and ushering us onto Ms Wannabe Serial Monogamist barbecuing her ex’s cat (I do hope it was actually a butcher-bought rabbit). We were not allowed to our seats until Mr I-Believe-in-Gay-Monogamy (Velasco) had finished dumping his rage on us.

And so Kiss My Fist continued—with perspicaciously placed ensemble work giving the production a unified dynamic.

It did however seem to enact existential aloneness—Sartre’s characters trapped in the nothingness of hell hurling their anxiety and rage at us like La Fura dels Baus offal. The business was bathed in a glow of Absurdist mania. The always already has been imminent, or some such, was excitingly in process.

The seating was flanked by a screen that threw up slides, comments and eventually a black Cadillac careering across plains and deserts, substantiating the sense announced in the program of the characters ‘hitting the road’. The audience was corralled and moved on, controlled. This lent Kiss my Fist an unnecessary comfort in which the too-easy satire participated. The sniping at gay targets was particularly facile.

By the time we had been advanced through the space to the red velvet proscenium, Kiss my Fist was really ready to confront us. In a theatrical coup, Velasco as a flailing Asian boy puppet related his tale of escape from the sweatshops and his cannibalistic journey as a refugee. The teetering balance of the comic and distressing was most acute at this point and I am not sure Velasco got it right. But then this was the principle on which this clever and accomplished production worked.

Kiss my Fist, consulting director Nigel Kellaway, performers Brian Fuata, Hannah Furmage, Shelley O’Donnell, Karl Velasco, sound designer Gail Priest, video Peter Oldham, lighting designer Clytie Smith, Mardi Gras 2002, Performance Space, Sydney, Feb 14-24

RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 pg. 27

© Ian Haig; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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