Written and produced by Nathan Joe
As part of the Auckland Fringe Festival, Gay Death Stocktake is a show that explores the idea that a gay man’s defining decade is over by the time they’re 30. This is a show with no director and with a different performer gracing the Basement Theatre’s stage every night. There are no rehearsals—it’s bold, hilarious, and hard-hitting.
We went to see two of the five performances to get a fuller experience of the show—Flora reviews Sam Te Kani’s performance and Arela reviews Ryan Carter’s.
Sam Te Kani | Tuesday 6 September
After seeing Sam’s performance at Dirty Passports, I knew for sure that I was going to be in for a good time. And boy did this show exceed my expectations. I never really know what I’m in for when I go see a Nathan Joe production, but I thoroughly enjoy every one. With Sam’s charisma and wit combined with Nathan’s writing, Gay Death was a whole 60 minutes of belly-aching laughs and deep, resonating feelings.
The theatre form was particularly clever with its audience interaction and immersive nature—the fact that neither Sam nor the audience knew what was going on and what would happen during the show was such a fresh experience. It was incredibly interesting to watch Sam bring Nathan’s deeply personal poems and experiences to life, but with Sam’s flair and witty quips. It’s almost like an intimate bonding moment between two creatives and we were watching and helping throughout the whole process.
Of course, with a show that is so experimental, minor bumps are always inevitable on opening night and Sam worked around them with ease. Aside from some disturbances in the audience, Sam’s performance of Gay Death was stellar. If I could, I would watch every single performance just to see the different performers’ own personal takes of the set of tasks they have to complete.
Ryan Carter | Wednesday 7 September
There was something so special about seeing Ryan perform to an eager crowd of gays, friends, and gay friends. At times hilarious and raucous, yet beautifully intimate, I left Gay Death with a greater appreciation of not merely Ryan as a performer, but of gay culture. Whether it was running around chasing balloons on stage, telling the audience about his threesomes, or his final ‘gay death’, each task completed draws you closer to Ryan and his experiences as a gay man.
Once again, it was a delight to experience Nathan’s writing as the thrumming lifeforce behind the performance. But not once did it feel like Ryan was a mere puppet for Nathan—he made it his own through his willingness to open up. Though the show felt incredibly personal, but Ryan’s lighthearted frankness and cheeky humour never made anything feel heavy. Of course, the buoyant, slightly cheesy elevator music helped.
When Ryan’s final task eluded him and gay death became him, there was a geniune sense of mourning from both performer and audience. I’m still left wondering whether Nathan set that up on purpose as some sort of meta commentary on evading Daddy Time and the impossibility of such a task. Or maybe I should appreciate Ryan taking his sweet time. Either way Gay Death is such a chaotic experience it’ll have you coming back for the approaches to utter mayhem.
Leave gay or die trying.
Gay Death Stocktake is presented by Hot Shame and is on at the Basement Theatre as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival until 10 September.
Photo by Ankita Singh