Wig Out  by Tarell Alvin McCraney – rehearsed reading
National Theatre
Queer Theatre Event Series
​Review by Tian Glasgow

Words by: Tian Glasgow | Published: Friday, July 21, 2017 1:41 PM
Wig Out, National Theatre - Queer Theatre Event Series Wig Out, National Theatre - Queer Theatre Event Series

The National Theatre celebrated this year’s London Pride weekend (7-9 July 2017) this year by inviting a series of plays to be restaged as rehearsed readings and that freedom brought a whole new level of fun and brilliance to Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Wig Out! A show that was previously fully staged at the Royal Court in 2008 (read review).

 

Read our 2011 interview with Tarell Alvin McCraney

 

Read our 2008 interview with Tarell Alvin McCraney

 

The comic tone and pace McCraney’s piece meant that it had an audience preparing to celebrate Pride that weekend in floods of laughter, nodded agreement with the messages of the piece and on their feet for a standing ovation by the end.


The premise of Wig Out! is simple but the nuances in human interaction are laid bare in fine style by the vivacity and fierceness of McCraney’s characters. The play is set in the world of American drag queens; their chosen families, their hierarchies and specifically their need to create safe spaces to be themselves. The fast approaching Drag Ball is one of these spaces where the members compete in competitions of fabulousness. Our protagonists in The House of Light are challenged to snap battle against their arch-rivals Diabolique. This brings the principle tension into the group to rise to the challenge.

 

The crucial potency in McCraney’s writing is that he understands implicitly that inside of a strong friendship group nay self-formed family are rivalries and disappointments. One of the standout themes he creates is the way societal issues of misogyny and ageism interact in the queer world. The appointed ‘Mother’ of the House of Light Rey-Rey can feel her crown slipping as her ability to win categories in the competition are called into question. As in many queer (and straight) spaces her value is judged by her beauty and vivacity, as her age is called into question so is her ability, power and sense of self.


Wig Out, National Theatre - Queer Theatre Event Series Wig Out, National Theatre - Queer Theatre Event Series

None of this judgement is applied to the House ‘King’ Lucian whom as a cis gay ‘masculine’ man, he does not compete in the Ball but holds authority over all of the House members through sheer patriarchy. Simply by embodying the classic ‘alpha-male’ role and wielding it well he manages the House like his personal harem. Without this power given freely by the members because of his privilege (i.e. the safe space of the House is one he helps provide to them but does not necessarily need personally in society.) it’s difficult to see how else he commands the respect of the big personalities in the House.


Tarell McCraney Tarell McCraney

The pathos of Rey-Rey’s decline is matched by some stupendous comedy lynch-pinned by some reverential service to zeitgeist culture. The cast (directed and joined by McCraney playing Rey-Rey) took hold the material impressively and brought so much energy to the roles.


Rufus Norris’ selection of Wig Out! for the Queer Theatre LGBT+ Readings series was a superb addition. The comic tone and pace of the piece meant that it had an audience preparing to celebrate Pride that weekend in floods of laughter, nodded agreement with the messages of the piece and on their feet for a standing ovation by the end. Maybe something like this for Black History Month?





 Info: Wig Out was at the National Theatre on 7 July 2017 / see more information




join our mailing list
* indicates required
Get regular updates on what's happening in the world of African-Caribbean theatre and win theatre tickets.

ENTER YOUR DETAILS BELOW: