Nowt queer as folk. We have so many rules. Where do they even come from? There’s no end to the list of things that fall within the bounds of acceptable behaviour. And there’s so much outrage ready to fall on our heads the minute we break one of them. To put it simply, FADoubleGOT is a sensitive autobiography of Jamal Gerald’s experience of being gay and black. To complicate it a little, it tracks a personal history of negotiating the blocks that are put in the way of certain kinds of behaviour by certain kinds of people.
There’s a fresh, honest quality to Gerald’s performance – it totally feels like he’s here in the room with us, and not so much performing as opening up. And he proper fills the room with his presence; we are all in the palm of his hand. The show flicks between spoken word poetry, movement, and no-bullshit sections of sitting down, straight-talking about systems of oppression, where they’ve come from and how they’ve manifested in Jamal’s life. Maybe it’s because it’s autobiographical, but there’s some untouchable strength in the experience of this show, like a bottle of rage. ‘Brave’ isn’t the right word at all. Maybe it’s fierce.
We hear of Gerald’s sexual adventures and misadventures, his love for Freddie Mercury, the effects of race and religion on his identity and his journey to here. There are some wonderful moments of image creation which punctuate the show. Jamal sits on a chair, forcing haribos into his mouth, as many as he can fit before spitting them out again. I’ve no idea why I loved that so much. Visceral and colourful and grotesque and somehow really relatable. Perhaps above all I related to Jamal’s experience of religion. Having been to Catholic primary and secondary schools I’m well familiar with the constraints religion can try to place.
Consistently, we are shown the tensions between who Jamal Gerald is and the spaces that have taken issue with that. And being at Contact, during Queer Contact, seeing a 22 year old gay, black man talking openly and honestly about all this, is a slap in the face to those spaces. It’s a reminder that there have been victories, and will continue to be. The show ends with this ritual cleansing with water and colour powder, like a simultaneous cleansing and embellishment. Gerald finds himself, and glories in it, and does not need to be ‘clean’ on anyone else’s terms. His self is worth, is beauty enough.
This has been touched on by other writers writing about shows with personal content before, but there’s little to touch in this show. It has its language, and it uses it to share itself. I suppose that’s how all theatre works but when faced with a show as unambiguously personal as FADoubleGOT, I can’t assault its integrity when it’s self-evident. Jamal Gerald is, intensely, fiercely himself on stage, in a show that highlights the idea that the way the world is structured forces some ways of life into a form of survival. And all that noise can be given the finger.
FADoubleGOT was on at Contact, Manchester. Click here for more of their programme.