Fat Blokes – Traverse Theatre

Coarse and tender, defiant and vulnerable, Fat Blokes by Scottee is indeed “a (sort of) dance show”, but to pass it off as entertainment or strictly performative would to be dismiss the heart of its purpose and the spirit in which it was conceived. Fat Blokes is an intricate mesh of a little bit of everything, but if one thing remains constant, it’s that it is rooted in sincerity.

Gez, Sam, Asad, Joe, and Scottee himself, are the five stars of the show. They’re both creators and creations of and by their own hands. About them, by them, and for them. The very nature of their creative intent, as well as how they sculpt and wield it, transforms the stage (set up minimalistically; a large dancefloor against a backdrop of boxes and refrigerators) into more of a space – a space where they can dance, a space where they can speak, a space where they are listened to, and, more crucially, a space that they can and have claimed as their own.

There is no sense of the audience giving or lending them voice: here, they do not speak because we are listening. No – they command their own voices and assert their own truths, with such compelling force that we can’t help but listen. We do not silence ourselves in order for them to talk. Instead, we are rendered speechless because they are talking. How sexy, how successful their seduction.

It’s not a show purely about self-love and acceptance, nor self-loathing and denial. It’s about identity, which is fluid and dynamic and ungraspable, and thus the show’s dealings are more complex than mere binaries or categories. Even the stars themselves adopt multiple roles as they tell, construct, perform and represent their own stories. The show is just so well-nourished with breadth and depth, as comical moments segue smoothly into more threatening ones, as choreographed movement shifts into a stand-up monologue, as you’re made to witness the flickering between empowerment and disempowerment, and sometimes realise that both planes of reality can coexist in a singular moment…

It’s funny, but it’s not a comedy. It’s sad, but it’s not a tragedy. It’s strong, but it’s not a motivational pep talk. The show’s identity is one that feels political, social, emotional, spiritual, and many other things, all at the same time – just like our self-definitions very much are.

The show begins with a disclaimer: “Don’t think this is theatre. Because it’s fucking not.” And they’re right. Fat Blokes might feel like a narrative in its construction and style, but it’s built upon a foundation of personal truths. It is the elaborate interiority of identity and the self-made, and such is the spell-work of theatre, ingeniously teased and flaunted through Scottee’s directorial expertise.

Fat Blokes isn’t about five guys who are meant to inspire, move, anger or encourage; if these feelings arise, it’s a byproduct, not the show’s objective. The show’s goal is to present five blokes as… five blokes, just as they are. They’re not quite just actors, or just performers, or just artists, so it feels wrong to comment on this aspect of their calibre. Because, in reality, more than anything, they’re themselves, and there’s no qualification for that. All I can testify to is that it was enrapturing – in all fragrances of the word – to have been drawn into each of their monologues, so rich and substantial.

And boy, they sure can dance.

 

PHOTOS: Traverse Theatre

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Odette Yiu

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