Friday, September 22, 2023

Review: The Power of Drag Comes Through in The Gig

Who: Theatre Aquarius
What: The Gig
Length: 2 hours with intermission
Theatre Aquarius Mainspace (190 King William Street)
When: March 8 – 25, 2023
Tickets: $30 and up
To Buy Tickets:

Getting along with other people isn’t always easy. Even the closest of friends, or the most devoted of lovers disagree from time to time. So when you have every reason to be in conflict with someone, but the circumstances demand that you cooperate with them instead? It can be difficult, to say the least.

The Gig is a show that revolves around this exact problem: a trio of drag queens find themselves doing a paid performance for a rookie conservative politician, who hopes to convey a message of inclusivity and hope. But when nobody is on precisely the same page about what’s going on—and none of them can agree on how to proceed—the result is sure to be an unforgettable evening, for better or for worse. This is the question that the show aims to explore; when you can’t see eye-to-eye, but you know that you have to try, what will you do?

There’s a lot to like about this play, but the heart and soul of it is the characters who take part in it. Each one is a unique individual with real depth, and each is highly expressive in their own way—even the ones who aren’t flamboyant. They feel less like characters in a fictional story, and more like real people whose lives we’re getting a brief glimpse of. No one is exactly who they appear to be on the surface, and the characters’ relationships are just as complex as their personalities.

The Gig makes great use of costumes for its characters. There are times, of course, when a normal outfit that speaks to the character’s personality is the best choice. On the other hand, when the moment is right, the costumes can be just as expressive as the characters themselves. The props and special effects operate on the same logic: they know when to be subtle, and they know when to show off.

One thing that’s especially clever about the play is its approach to scene transitions. Rather than having separate scenes marked by the dimming and brightening of the lights, the entire first act is one continuous experience. ‘Scenes’ are marked by entrances, exits and context, creating the impression of distinct scenes while still maintaining that flow. It’s a unique way to add continuity to the events of the play, and it makes the ‘scenes’ of the play feel that much more natural.

Politics is a difficult topic to address at the best of times, whether you’re involved in it or bringing it up elsewhere, but The Gig deals with the subject matter brilliantly. Every character in the story feels like a real person, and that fact adds so much to the story. The narrative doesn’t truly have ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’, with clear indicators for who we’re meant to love and who we’re meant to hate. In the end, the play is just recounting the events of the night; it tells us what happened, and then leaves us to decide for ourselves how to feel about it. The playwright, Mark Crawford, clearly knows how complex the issue is, and his writing takes that into account in a way that shows considerable skill and care.

It’s one thing to say that a play is good, or that it handles difficult subjects with care, or that it makes you think. . . but at the end of the day, most plays are also meant to entertain. And so it would be remiss of me not to mention that The Gig is incredibly entertaining. It’s not only fascinating, but hilarious as well, and the humour never interferes with the play’s more serious moments. The Gig truly is a show about drag, in every possible sense: it showcases drag, it informs about drag, it highlights what people find so fun about drag, and above all else it celebrates drag. Prior knowledge about drag isn’t a requirement, though; whether you’re a huge fan, a total newcomer, or even a skeptic, The Gig is more than worth your time.

Arthur Bullock
Arthur Bullock
Arthur Bullock is a graduate of McMaster University, Mohawk College and Algonquin College. He's spent nearly all his life in Hamilton, and has been reviewing plays at the Fringe since 2015. He has a passion for writing of all kinds, and loves to combine that with a longtime interest in local theatre.

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