THE GOLDEN THUG written and directed by Edward Roy (Topological Theatre in association with Buddies In Bad Times). At Buddies (12 Alexander). To April 16. See Continuing Listings. Pwyc-$29. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you liked the film Capote, you'll probably enjoy The Golden Thug , another portrait of a troubled and obsessed queer writer who enjoyed some notoriety.
Jean Genet remains a unique figure in literary history. Imprisoned numerous times for theft, he was a genuine outcast. More than his bourgeois French peers did, he saw the world as a poetic chamber of horrors and whores, where everything had a price tag and people were expected to wear masks and play roles.
He was also a known liar, which added to his mythology.
All of this is great material for a play, and Edward Roy does the writer and his life justice, even if something inevitably feels missing.
It's 1986 the final year of Genet's life and the writer ( William Webster ) is holed up in a seedy Paris hotel room, preparing a manuscript. He sees a younger version of himself in the hotel owner's punkish son, Pierre ( Andrew Hachey ), and soon like a gay Hannibal Lecter draws out some of the young man's secrets.
Roy artfully interweaves flashbacks to the writer's earlier life, with Hachey playing the younger Genet, often while the older one looks on. There's ample use of masks and some inventive bits of staging involving screens and projections.
Genet's thoughts on love and sex, as written by Roy, are still relevant, and the play's dissection of societal power takes on a disturbing theatricality.
It's only at the end of the first act, however, that there's any sort of dramatic tension, and this makes the second act a lot more compelling than the first.
The five-person cast is efficiently employed, but the centre of the play is Webster's Genet. The actor lacks the writer's compact muscularity and mournful expression, but he does capture the writer's gift for cutting through crap, as well as his confidence in his own self-worth. When Webster's Genet says that words are all he has left, you absolutely believe him.