Review by Kate Gaul
Written, Choreographed, and performed by an astonishingly talented Max Percy, “Baklâ” is a gem in the panoply of solo performance at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Max Percy opens the show by defining the word Baklâ: Tagalog. Meanings: homosexual, Filipinx LGBTQ+ community, Faggot. He invites us to think of other words – he’s heard them all. Max Percy embraces the identification, simultaneously utilising the term to share their experiences growing up Queer in the Filipino culture and exploring the impact of Spanish and American colonisation on the Philippines and generations of people. It’s a stunning work as it melds the personal, political, historical, and religious into pure theatre.
We are thrust back to 1521 – a date marking the arrival of the first European ship to the Philippines. What followed was 300 years of Spanish rule (followed by a period of American rule) and a gradual yet profound cultural genocide of the native people. This show explores how intergenerational trauma takes shape in the modern Filipino.
The loss of his ancestor’s homeland sends ripples through time, emitting a cultural amnesia. Is sex the best cure for a headache?
The work is staged in front of a giant dance studio mirror with a chair, some basic video elements, music, a microphone, and aerial apparatus. Max Percy’s skills range from being a natural storyteller, gorgeously comedic, a gift for intense naturalism, incredible dance, and aerial work. The physical images he creates are alive when attached to the story of say, colonisation, send reverberations from the past to the present in a way I have never experienced quite like this. Context is everything of course and Max Percy deftly conveys his context in which we are to experience the work. Shout out to director Robbie Taylor Hunt!
The narrative shifts from the club scene to direct address to the lower decks of a slave ship. Percy literally flings himself from moment to moment. Lighting and sound support these jolts. Its tight! Exploring his personal sexual journey, addictions, and complex family relationships are all included. There may be poetic license taken but who cares? This is a great, searing story of a personal and political quest for liberation.
Favourite moments – a mirror dance where Percy dances with himself in a mesmerising club dance floor seduction; sex in the bathroom; the old man looking for his handkerchief; aerial images which connect the past and present; projected vintage advertisements; Catholics!
The rhythmic flow of the production is sometimes abruptly stopped when Percy confronts prejudice (intended or otherwise) that all marginalised people deal with daily. It’s a moment of recognition for the audience – a chance to check our privilege and prejudices. Percy won’t let us off the hook either, charming storyteller though he be! Oh, and I loved the “safety curtain’ moment – meta, clever! You’ll have to see the show to get that reference.
It's a knockout and deserves to sell-out. Say you were there!