To paraphrase a closing line from the magnificent Queer as Flux, storytelling, by its nature, is transformative.
When we engage with stories, we become a different person than the one that sat down to read or watch it. We don’t get to choose when we transform into a new person, just as we don’t get to choose the moments in our lives that will change us. Whether it’s the loss of a canine companion, or an otherworldly encounter with singing whales, these chance moments emerge and interrupt our lives, changing us into new people.
When I stepped into the Blue Room Theatre in Perth, I didn’t expect, or even consider, that I would emerge ninety minutes later a different person, yet, that’s the experience I had with Stace Callaghan’s hilarious, emotional, and spiritual celebration of LGBTIQA+ culture and history. Queer as Flux encompasses a dual narrative that has Stace flitting with dramatic ease between history lesson giving fairy drag-mother Polly Tickle, and Stace’s own life story from birth to adulthood, with their own continued transitions through life.
Written and produced by Stace, with direction from Leah Mercer, Queer as Flux moves at a breakneck speed, with Stace’s script bouncing with joyous alliteration and so much vibrant and diverse personality (you can easily tell how much fun they had writing the script) that you’ll only have to catch yourself at the end to realise that this was a one person show, and not the cast of many you feel it is. Stace’s superpower is building fully realised characters in an instant.
One of the continued motifs that is employed through Queer as Flux is how Stace’s ‘superpower’ changes as they grow as a person, and as such, their kryptonite changes as well. It’s this shorthand that helps create a touchstone for how our strengths and weaknesses can be subverted and flow into one another with ease, and it’s here that I left the performance changed. We often neglect to self-reflect and to recognise what our strengths and weaknesses are, and how to improve upon them, but Queer as Flux reinforces the need for self-reflection to encourage growth, shining a light on how looking into ones self can make us better people for ourselves and for others.
Queer as Flux speaks of Stace’s own personal transition, and while their transition may be different than others, the specificity makes it all the more relatable and personal. Again, we are all in a state of transition, from being able minded to living with dementia, from being a living being to ashes, from being agnostic, to becoming spiritual. As Stace succeeds in life, we are reminded to reflect on our successes in life, and as Stace stumbles, we too reflect on those stumbles.
Polly Tickle emerges and interrupts frequently, bringing forth queer history and the different fights and struggles that queer folk around the world, throughout generations, have faced. This larger than life character is a joy to spend time with, especially when they wave their fairy drag-mother wand over the audience, and given the small space of the Blue Room, there’s a genuine connection when Stace and you make eye contact. They see and embrace you, and we, as an audience, see and embrace them right back.
Polly’s history tour is less a ‘lesson’ and more accentuating the lived-in history that flows within every LGBTIQA+ person around the world. Whether it’s the impact of Marsha P. Johnson or the institutional homophobia in Queensland, we’re continually reminded that queer history is world history, and it needs to be embraced and treated as such.
As is highlighted throughout Queer as Flux, how we transition is defined by rigid words that corral and cordone off how we can live our lives. For transfolk who want to go through gender confirmation surgery, the words used by doctors demean and question their mental state, whereas people with breasts wanting to get implants are ushered through without a question. The manner that Stace creates layer upon layer upon layer of meaning and subtext to each moment is really quite a sight to behold, giving audience members every reason in the world to revisit Queer as Flux again and again.
What Stace Callaghan has managed to create with Queer as Flux deserves to be celebrated wherever Stace manages to tour the show. Here in Perth, until the 13th of November, that means on stage at the Blue Room Theatre. Go, enjoy, let yourself be transformed by this masterfully magnificent play.
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