Third Street Theatre and Theatre Outré, two Albertan queer theatre companies have teamed up to present Unsex’d, a satirical farce inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The play tells the historically inaccurate account of Wilburn Hussey (Jay Whitehead) who has played multiple roles in the Bard’s plays. He has ‘mastered’ previous female leads, though the critics hate his Juliet. In walks Humphrey Hughes (Adam Beauchesne) who is delivering loaves and catches his big break through the mentorship Wilburn. But Humphrey’s talents are recognized and he takes the role of Lady MacBeth from Wilburn. The play then turns into a battleground between the two actors of quite simply, who is better than the other.
Unsex’d is intentionally over the top and gratuitously crude. It plays within the language of MacBeth and turns metaphors around while laying foul language amongst the Bard’s imabic pentameter. At one point Humphrey tells us all his inner thoughts and motivation as an aside, ‘a contrived story device for lazy writers.’
There are some funny moments, gratuitous crude humour and more than enough cackling. Both characters exhibit characteristics of queer men, that are amplified for humour. The narrative doesn’t really go beyond that though. If you’re looking for over the top queer theatre, Unsex’d will satisfy. But any depth that she play can delve into is overshadowed by cheap laughter. The narrative does present the opportunity to explore gender roles and the power of good looks. But it doesn’t take those themes seriously enough and only brushes up upon real emotion.
Aaron Collier’s sound design coupled with Robert Stanford’s lighting design is quite impressive. Both designs help to highlight aspects of the storyline.
Unsex’d won the best of the fest award in the Halifax Fringe Festival, and the play does read as a Fringe play, though it has been stretched to span 75 minutes. It’s all about getting in, getting the laugh and getting out.
Third Street Theatre’s Unsex’d plays until November 2nd at the EPCOR CENTRE’S Motel. Tickets and more information is available online.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Brower