“IT CREATES A WORLD SO ARTFULLY THAT YOU LEAVE THE THEATRE SWEARING YOU’VE TRAVELLED TO GEORGIA AND BACK.”
The pain of exile versus the relief of having got away – both emotions run through J Fergus Evans’ solo show, which tells the story of the performer’s own upbringing in the American deep south.
Though it’s full of handy hints about the dangers of living in Georgia (you can only outrun an alligator if you move in zigzags; it’s best to check under the toilet seat in case a spider is lurking there), Evans suggests that it’s not just the deadly copperhead snake or black bear that you should fear in these parts, particularly if you happen to be gay. Until 1998, under laws against sodomy, homosexuality was illegal in Georgia; gay people faced tougher penalties than necrophiliacs. In common with all but nine US states, same-sex marriages still remains unrecognised.
Evans, laidback and engaging, is like a travelling troubador, performing to small audiences (six when I saw the show) and transforming broom cupboards, boiler rooms and office spaces into tiny pieces of Georgia, complete with neon bar signs, hokey memorabilia and the twang of folksy music. You can taste the tang of bourbon on your lips and experience the sweet stickiness of peach juice on your chin as you get glimpses of homecoming queens and mean girls, misdirected kisses and drag artists, pipe bombs and hurricanes.
The show is suffused with both pain and nostalgia, but also something tougher and more resilient. And it creates a world so artfully that you leave the theatre swearing you’ve travelled to Georgia and back.