Make a big difference to The Big Idea.

Help us tell the most creative stories.

Become a supporter

Stories and stages

Dione Joseph talks to author of Black Faggot, Victor Rodger, in Edinburgh.
Author and producer of Black Faggot, Victor Rodger and Karin Williams, share their journey of bringing Black Faggot to Edinburgh and the responses of audiences.


Author and producer of Black Faggot, Victor Rodger and Karin Williams, are unequivocal about creating work outside the euro-centric nexus of New Zealand. They share their journey of bringing Black Faggot to Edinburgh and the responses of audiences, both at home and in Scotland.

* * *

“We have to constantly deal with different forms of invisibility,” explains Rodger, “And that’s across all art forms. As a 44-year-old man I’m not a young thing anymore and I wondered who am I to tell a young person’s story about growing up brown and gay – and then I said, wait, I was that person, and I know how it was.”

Widely applauded for pushing boundaries and embraced by audiences in New Zealand and Australia  Black Faggot has had several incarnations and both Rodger and Williams are delighted with the journey it’s taken.

“It’s been a turbulent ride and to be honest I’ve been very surprised that a play called Black Faggot has been embraced by straight middle-class white people not just back home and in Australia but here in Edinburgh,” laughs Rodger, “I thought I was pushing boundaries but maybe I’ve not been pushing far enough because there’s been no walk outs!”

Indeed, not only have there been no walk outs but there have actually been many audience members who share their own story after the show. “The thing that actually gratifies me most is when young black faggots come see this work,” says Williams, “ It triggers a catharsis and I’ve literally sat with people crying after telling me that’s ‘my story’ on stage – and that means a lot.”

Bringing this distinctive story to Edinburgh puts a very New Zealand story on the international stage and while some audience members may not recognise all the references (Pak n’ Save may gain an international market) the specificity of the context that Rodger’s has created makes it unique.

“Sitting amongst the audience watching the boys - I love it,” he says, “And it’s liberating to have not just other black faggots in the audience but also anyone who might have a brother, uncle, nephew and who can relate to this story – it gives them insight into what it’s like to be a brown gay man.”

While audiences in Edinburgh are different to ones back home, the latter certainly more vocal and interactive, Black Faggot has been warmly received by audiences here and there is talk already of an international season.

Former Momentum participant (2013) Williams can also speak to the calibre of New Zealand theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and is proud of the fact that “the work we do is world class and at the helm of ground breaking international work. Unfortunately, sometimes people at home don’t necessarily know that and then they are blown away by how the work is received internationally.”

But at the end of the day it’s not about getting what Rodger’s would call a ‘tick on the conventional checklist’ that motivates the work that he and Williams want to create. “It’s about validating ourselves and supporting New Zealand arts and sometimes the crabs in the bucket syndrome gets in the way at home and it’s good to be able step outside that.”

Black Faggot is more than just a story about being brown and gay it is about people, experiences and a universal humanity that speaks across languages and continents – and yes, it is specific because as both Rodger and Williams point out:

“People need to hear their stories on stage and they need to see themselves on stage – because otherwise why are we even here if we can’t share our own stories in our own way for our people?”

Written by

JK Productions

19 Aug 2014

Dione Joseph is a writer, director and dramaturge.