Above: writer-performers of FAG/STAG, (left to right) Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs. Featured image: (left to right) Chris Isaacs and Jeffery Jay Fowler. Production images: Robert Catto @robertcattophotographer on Facebook.

FAG /STAG is the first play to be presented by Griffin Theatre Company for 2018. Sexuality-discordant friends Jimmy and Corgan, united by a love of gaming and a metaphorical urge to succeed in life by happily reaching the next level of Donkey Kong.

The heart-on-the-sleeve ambition of the two friends includes an intense drive to be successful in the love/lust/desire/where-is-my-soulmate/for-god’s-sake-don’t-make-me-be-alone game that life makes us play without any clear rules.

The narrative involves a friendship since school for the pair, a  once girlfriend in common who is soon to be married, and a common need to deal with emotional mistakes as well as issues of self esteem and self-control.

A delicious and extremely welcome no-holds-barred honesty is contained within the solid architecture of this writing and performance by talented Perth-based duo Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs.

Through this two-hander play we witness comment on similar scenes alternating under the spotlight from these two protagonists. We rarely hear the same version of events, in a bizarre non-debated type of Chinese whispers which carries great power and unique dramatic emphasis. Revelations regarding character behaviour shock us and a riveting range of emotion and tension play out on the stage.

Formidable unbridled realism and parallel onstage orientation set up the resources needed for an exploration on the  similarities between the heterosexual and ‘the other’. Especially scrutinised are attempts at seeking out and maintaining relationships. This makes for quite a thought-provoking entertainment. In one crowded hour we are taken on quite an educating ride through contrasting sexualities. Or are the fag/stag categories essentially much different at all?

Endearing and well constructed performances with successful and engaging rapid-fire vocal delivery are consistently poignant and penetrating. The characters’ accounts slice through the air of the the highly suitable theatre space and also destroy the nature of many harmful or outdated streotypes of youth, sexuality, conceptual relationship definitions, masculinity and male mateship in our diverse times.

Apart from the men struggling to relate to life and those indentity types referred to in the monologues, sound elements added at times from designer Brett Smith help to expand the intensity to colourfully and accurately evoke temptations and environments in the wider world.

This piece of theatre is a significantly crisp, concise and no-nonsense wedge of humanity. The well crafted writing and successful staging that sees the protagonists’ delivery perched on high chairs spaced only a few metres apart present one of the most exciting pieces of theatrical non-dialogue you will be lucky to experience for some time.

In the wake of the recent postal survey on marriage equality this play and its powerhouse performances by the co-writers form a much needed wake up call to the status quo of human engagement.

With some expression and text not for the faint-hearted, this slick and seminal work communicates to showcase the immense similarities between heterosexual and gay males in their struggle for human closeness. It swaggers with wit, tragedy, deft use of vocal expression and a variety of physicality with subtle use of the intimatestage space in climaxes.

This play tweaks traditional mateship in a way that makes you shudder, laugh, and maybe cry. Its urgency urges us to embrace the evenness of  diverse sexualities, view humanity as seamless as well as gently examine threads of identity within our uniquely fragile selves.

FAG/STAG plays at the SBW   Stable Theatre, 10 Nimrod St Kings Cross until Jan 27.