Stage Review: Agokwe – storytelling with warmth and humour

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With the recent focus on gay teen suicides waning, the timing for Waawaate Fobister’s one-man show Agokwe couldn’t be better, helping to re-focus us on this important issue.  Told with much warmth and humour, this story of “gay love on the rez”, reinforces the fact that indeed, things do get better.

AgokweAgokwe tells the story of Jake, a grass dancer and Mike, a star hockey player.  After an encounter at the Kenora Shoppers Mall where Jake is convinced of a mutual attraction through their furtive glances, the boys finally meet at the local hockey tournament and soon realize that the attraction is real.

In his recent interview, Fobister admits that he found playing the female characters in his story as being “the most clear” to him.  This is no understatement as Fobister is indeed strongest in his performance of the women in his story.  Given the ease in which Fobister finds his inner female, it comes as no surprise that characters like “Goose”, Jake’s cousin who also has eyes on Mike, take up much of the stage time.  This is both a blessing and a curse, as while Fobister gives us believable female characters, they tend to overshadow the central characters of Mike and Jake.

That Fobister is a dancer is evident through most of the show.  Movement combines with various physical manifestations to help bring each of the characters in the play to life.  This is particularly evident in the character of Nanabush, the bigger than life narrator and as commentator to not only the action on stage but to folly of life and humans in general.

Andy Moro’s set, while beautiful to look at, felt a little confined.  When Fobister, as Nanabush, steps off the central set piece to interact with the audience in a funny bit of business mid-way through the show, I couldn’t help but wonder how Fobister the dancer might have been better served with more space to explore.

We have heard stories of the loss of storytelling within the aboriginal communities across Canada and in other parts of the world.  With much to say, Agokwe and Waawaate Fobister are perhaps the catalysts that are needed in bringing a new generation back to that tradition.

3 1/2 of 5 Stars Agokwe
The Cultch
17 – 22 January 2011

By Waawaate Fobister.  Direction and Dramaturgy by Ed Roy.  A Buddies in Bad Times Theatre production in associatoin with the National Arts Centre.  On stage at The Cultch until January 22, 2011.  

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