BWW Review: RAZED AND CONFUZED Goes Digital
The current pause in theatre performance has forced many productions to rethink and regroup, and Razed and Confuzed is no exception. For Pride Month, this show has moved from its live stages to a new digital platform run by Something to Aim For. Bringing together early career artists across cabaret and theatre, Raze Collective continue their series nurturing queer artists in a special livestream.
As host Beau Jangles informs us, "This is normally live, but Miss Rona had other plans". Instead, Razed and Confuzed on this occasion moves from the stage to showcase four artists and their short films which explore and challenge perceptions of camp, drag, masculinity, femininity, and gender identity.
Razed and Confuzed was created to give LGBTQAI+ early career artists an opportunity and space to develop their performances and creativity; to offer support, funding and space to showcase newly created work in scratch performances outside of the traditional bar and club circuit. The production values are consistently high, and the performances thoughtful, celebratory and challenging.
Beau Jangles proves to be a winning host, with a personality which hints at both classic bandleader Ken "Snakehips" Johnson and Peter Straker's Hud from the early days of Hair. He sings, playfully flirts with the camera, and makes pointed political points with a lightness of touch. He is also enthusiastic about the acts on the bill, talking them up and keeping the momentum going.
The first artist, Barbs, has created a film with explores the freedom of exploring self and the dichotomy between gender expectations and personal definition. They have crafted a piece which takes themes of fire, traditional female model poses, dry-stone-walled rural landscapes, and wide open spaces in which to run to develop a piece which teases out the complexities around perceived glamour and inherent prejudice.
Mr Wesley Dykes, a sexy drag king, funky fxckboi, and charming storyteller, brings the story of The Black Boi Band into a show entitled Dass Gae AF. A hyped-up music show, fusing musical style with a gentle ribbing of black band culture, their act is joyful to watch and very professional. Joined by fellow drag kings Manly Mannington, Romeo de La Cruz, and Victor Shawn, this film boasts finely delineated characterisations together with enviable dance moves and lip synching. Wesley is currently in their ninth year of bringing their creation to the stage, "seeing masculinity through a different view".
After a quick break to refresh our glasses and visit our gender neutral loos ("the most inclusive space you've ever been in"), we're treated to a performance from circus and performance artist Symoné, a Fierce Festival associate artist who subverts the traditional male gaze and invites the camera to intrude into her personal space. It is a film straight out of the avant-garde movement, with flashes of colour, kaleidoscopic images, Busby Berkeley-inspired sequences of movement, and more. There is a beauty and passion behind Symoné's work, a strength of resolution, a rebellion against expectations of what the body and soul can do.
Finally, Sophie Brain's drag creation Brian makes her entrance to the slinky sound of the Rolling Stones, and toys with the definitions of butch, camp, attraction, womxn, and more. Billed as "often one of a few womxn in a sea of men", Brian articulates a range of ideas through spoken word, lip sync (liberal use of an interview with Grace Jones), and movement. At a time when trans identity is still being hotly debated on social media, Brian chips away at issues around androgyny, categorisation, and difference. I enjoyed the piece and its mashup of ideas, and the sentiment "if I'm not different, that's when I'm afraid".
Running at just over an hour, Razed and Confuzed is creative, funny, subversive, passionate, and important. Utilising the new digital hub, Us in the Making (from Something to Aim For) there were no visible technical problems, and links between the live pieces with Beau Jangles and the filmed guest acts were seamless. Of course, it is very different than seeing a live cabaret in a club, with a vibrant and supportive audience showing their vocal support, but there was a real feel of warmth and camaraderie which made me feel as if I was interacting with a group of people assembled for a good time.