I Expected a Celebration: Belvoir’s Blue Wizard

Joel Hillman and Charlie O’Grady felt complicit in a trainwreck.

“Time is running out for the world as we know it, and if we don’t get our act together soon, well… let’s just say there’ll be no more jizz and diamonds, and what will we ever do then…”

JH: I spent most of this production in a miasma of fog machine and disgust, punctuated by mirror balls and misplaced hopefulness. The theatre was distractingly cold, the actor wore distractingly few clothes, with distractingly frequent wardrobe malfunctions for so scant a costume. Also distracting was the constant, high-pitched moral whine at the back of my head from the moment Nick Coyle stepped onto stage dressed only in sequins and rhinestones and sang that he came from a planet of exclusively gay wizards, and then attempted to remove my pants.

CO: As much as I, too, enjoyed having my leg touched without consent, Coyle’s reaction to Joel’s furious, stage-whispered ‘please stop touching me’ was the highlight for me in this clusterfuck that could be loosely described as a play. The whole thing, from start to finish, was poorly scripted and structured around some lacklustre audience interaction, disqualifying any message or semblance of meaning .

JH: The show had weak narrative with empty, pointless, and soggy dialogue. I understand there was an element of improvisation, which requires immense skill to maintain, but this would have been made better by having any narrative substance. The one redeeming part of the debacle was the truly very beautiful lighting design by Damien Cooper (who created virtually identical design for Belvoir’s Glass Menagerie last year). Embarrassingly, the show had stylistic input from Ralph Myers and, most grating of all, dramaturgy by Adena Jacobs. For shame.

CO: There are so many things that could be cited as the reason Blue Wizard was awful, but the thing I keep coming back to was the fact that I sat in an audience of forty-odd people for an hour who were simply there to laugh at the weird gay.

JH: It was painful to watch someone pander their identity to steal cheap laughs from a group of middle-aged white people. Coyle states he set out to create ‘the gayest one-man show ever’, which implies that there is some sliding scale of gayness and expression is simply a matter of dialing it up to sparkly.

CO: None of which is to say that Coyle necessarily intended all this to be the point of Blue Wizard. From the second he stepped on stage, genderfucked and glittering, proclaiming “I am a wizard from space / I come from far away / I come from a crystal planet / where everyone’s gay”, I was prepared and eager to witness a text that celebrated queer subculture. There’s a huge amount of political power in being celebratory this way—in presenting something that is beautiful, and joyful, and queer. There’s something about it which is delightfully reclamatory and subversive and dangerous. It’s why Mardi Gras is celebrated, why we align ourselves under a rainbow flag.

JH: I also expected a celebration. That expectation evaporated, leaving only cold disgust, as he claimed that, as A Gay, he requires only three foods to survive: diamonds, cocaine and semen.

CO: From that point on it was a mess of harmful stereotypes about queer men that Coyle did nothing to dispel, or satirise, or make clear were stereotypes. As much as he was determined from the start to be laughed with and not at, everything that did get a laugh was a gag about how feminine, hypersexual, or vapid gay men are. As a queer person I have never felt so isolated, or wanted less to be queer, than in that room.

JH: I disagree, I think Coyle went into this with the full intention of being laughed at (and by extension his identity as a gay man being laughed at), and that’s why this was so galling.

CO: I’m not sure if that would have made it better or worse. As much as Coyle’s intent matters very little in light of his audience’s reaction, I wonder if he really meant for certain elements to come across as so farcical.

JH: This entire production was a farce.


CO: I think you may be right about Coyle laughing at queer stereotypes. I think it is the contemporary privilege of cis white gay men to tell these kind of stories, that poke fun at a certain kind of queer expression which may be perceived as “dated” or out-of-fashion, without considering the repercussions for other identities. It’s the Masc Drag phenomenon, the idea that you can be a gay man as long as you’re not “girly” about it. As a fairly effeminate queer man I find that mentality incredibly harmful.

JH: Then there was the weirdness of the lesbian cracks about the ‘beige wizards of reno’. He identified women (lesbians, both actually in the piece and metaphorically I am sure) as a separate race. And a race of beigeness. We have one race of women, and they’re beige! and they renovate things! haha! lesbians.

CO: It was incredibly misogynistic—which, conveniently, is a real stereotype of cis gay men. Obviously I don’t know Nick Coyle, I have no idea about the specifics of his identity or whether he would ever intend to decry “that kind of queer”, or whether he himself identifies with the effeminate expression of the Blue Wizard, but it sure did come across like he was. And of course there was zero representation of other queer identities in the piece. Are there bisexual wizards on this planet? Probably not. Can wizards be transgender? Clearly that would be going much too far. I mean the ridiculous conceit of gayness as “alien” made it impossible for it to acknowledge anything else.

JH: That was a particularly gruesome allegory. Also, they can’t be transgender because their gender and sexuality are determined by their colour, obviously. This criticism is probably irrelevant given the narrative was so confused and messy that it meant nothing. Bewilderingly, he brings some kind of blood gift sacrifice to the humans. Why did he bring a wizard egg that hatched into a child as a gift? In what way can you bring a sentient creature as a gift?

CO: It was a gay sentient creature, so it was there for our entertainment anyway.

JH: I just have no idea what the point of the production was. In every reading, it’s wrong. Comedy? Because gayness and gays are hilarious. Celebration? Through mocking the gays. Spectacle? By exaggerating stereotypes.

CO: You can’t win, no matter how you read it. Coyle explains in his production notes that this play occurs in a post-AIDS world, where we cannot even really say that a “queer community” does exist any more.

JH: I struggled to see the relevance of AIDS.

CO: I can see where it was supposed to come in. That penultimate moment where Blue Wizard realises that two thousand years have passed and everyone he knew, including his boyfriend, is most likely dead, could have been an interesting—if simplistic and somewhat reductive—rumination on the constant trajectory towards loss and despair throughout queer history which crescendoed in the wake of the AIDS epidemic.

JH: That was a moment where I thought I had misjudged the entire piece. A shining ray of potential beauty, where Blue Wizard finds new direction in the care of a baby—whose name, of course, was “Meryl Streep.” But the moment is dashed by the murder of said child, so he can steal its magic to go back in time…?

CO: Which got the biggest laugh of the evening. (JH: Aaaaaaa) Those gays, destroying the family unit so they can have sex with their boyfriends because otherwise they’ll die, what a lark. He literally needed sex to live. So gay. This is still the kicker for me: listening to forty-odd people laugh derisively at a gay man being gay, I felt what I thought was the pain of the Blue Wizard—a creature isolated, surrounded by foreign and hostile forces, out of place and time, mocked and derided. More than anything it just makes me sad that all of that was played for laughs.

JH: Never before have I felt so uncomfortable watching a text. I felt like a bystander to some kind of gruesome train wreck where I was complicit in homophobia… Maybe we just didn’t appreciate the humour.

Joel’s rating: one ‘Pls’ out of five.

Charles’ rating: five ‘STOP’ out of five.