The Last Great Hunt is a brilliant piece of theatre.
And it's one I nearly missed. It had been on one of my early lists, but got cut somewhere down the line. Thankfully at the eleventh hour (literally their last show), I decided to take a punt and go see it.
I'm so glad that I did.
Written and performed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler (on the right, above) as Jimmy, the fag half of the title, and Chris Isaacs (on the left) as Corgan, the stag half, Fag/Stag takes on the idea that there are two sides to every story but the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It's presented as two parallel and overlapping monologues, told by switching between Fowler and Isaacs as they sit on either side of the stage and talk directly to the audience. Side by side, but separated, which sums up the show as a whole really.
The setting is simple, just two stools, two tables, two phones, two drinks and two video game controllers... and two characters who are so intensely real.
Both performers are incredibly talented and handle the dialogue and character with consummate skill. I did gravitate more towards Fowler as Jimmy, partly because he's so damn cute and as a fellow fag I identified a little more with his experiences.
It's especially apparent how skilfully they handle the material in those moments where they ramp things up to a heightened state of emotion... but they're great at the myriad of tiny, subtle moments too. It's totally worth watching the face of the other performer when one of them is talking to see those almost throw away moments of character, there never feels like a moment when they're not fully present. One of the most affecting scenes was one where Fowler just slowly starts to raise one arm while telling his story, and the movement has such incredible power because of what it represents it had me leaning forward to ensure I didn't miss a single moment.
And those moments when they lock eyes with audience members, not long enough to be uncomfortable but enough to really allow us to connect with both character and performer and draw us even further into the story.
The writing is exceptionally sharp and funny and touching and just incredibly real. It covers so many touchstones about just being a guy, both good and bad. And about relationships between guys, but specifically about those singular relationships that gay men have with straight men and, at the end of the day, no matter how close we are, the fact that we all see the world through our own unique lens.
If I had any quibbles, it's a very minor one... I couldn't help feeling that the geographic references, which are uniquely Perth, may not resonate with audiences in other cities. I felt like there was additional weight to those locations that, as someone not familiar with the geography, I was missing out on. And maybe there's no getting around that... those locations may not have a parallel in other states.
However I think that was more about me wanting to wring every last possible ounce out of the exceptional experience that was Fag/Stag.