Faun At Theatre Royal Plymouth Review

★★★★ ½ 

Meet Ace, 22, trans, queer and currently sofa surfing. When we meet them, they’ve just sorted out sofa number 13. Commissioned by Cardboard Citizens, Faun takes the shape of a beautifully constructed play that explores themes of homelessness affecting the young transgender people living in the UK, whilst also taking us on a whimsical journey of self-discovery. For Ace, it’s the generosity and willingness of friends that are their means of survival, due to the threat and uncertainty that’s waiting outside when this lucky streak runs out. 

From the very beginning, you can’t help but find yourself rooting for Ace (Aitch Wylie) as our main protagonist. With The Drum being such a personal space, you often meet Ace’s darting eyes as they’re trying to navigate their way around life; with the goodwill of others often meaning that instead of payment that they can’t afford, they’re expected to do demeaning tasks, which establish a level of power over a once balanced friendship. In times of need, Ace looks to us and this is what makes the production so intimate and truly beautiful. 

In this world, it’s Flight, Fight or Faun…and we quickly understand that this third option becomes Ace’s outward expression of their emotion and anxiety, as they slowly begin to grow mythological features, including hooves and a tail. It’s not easy trying to navigate society as a transgender male; currently living with a straight couple, Paige (Nyah Randon) and Ant (Afton Moran). The couple try their best to understand Ace’s struggles of not only being homeless, but being part of the queer community, but it’s sometimes not enough. 

The storyline of homelessness is vital to this narrative, with 24% of those being affected by this crisis identifying as young members of the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. Once homeless, these youthful individuals are more likely to face violence and discrimination than those who aren’t part of the community. This is why Ace is so terrified of having to leave the comfort of a home with Paige and Ant, learning the perfect balance of being the ideal houseguest, either making themselves useful or invisible, depending on the circumstances. 

With the anxieties that lay outside, writer Vinnie Heaven has constructed the piece in a way that brings us into a safe space, inviting us into Ace’s world of witty, accurate sarcasm and belonging, trusting their journey of magical realism; which plays out in a perfect celebration of the LGBTQ+ society. 

With a cast of only three performers, as Ace, Aitch Wylie is charming and hilariously unapologetic, a true rising comedic star; who’s truly impeccable in their performance. From the start, Ace is a character that anyone can find resonance with; whether identifying as queer or not. With exquisite comedic timing, Wylie manages to tackle such a serious topic in 80 minutes alone with such hope and jovial nature, showcasing true versatility as a performer. 

Joined on stage by both Nyah Randon and Afton Moran, who both played multi roles; this duo brought the story to life. Initially playing Paige and Ant, the couple welcomes Ace into their home with open arms–even throwing them a party when they’ve only been living there a month, adding much-needed high volume and a genuine feel of friendship. 

As the narrative develops, these actors are challenged with heavy subject matter, but deal with this in the most lighthearted of ways that leave you forever fascinated by the narrative. Acting from the entire company, particularly when Ace discovers a magical place of belonging known as The Queer Forest, is fantastic. Within her dual roles, Randon returns with an absolute sense of eccentric excellence as Doe who absolutely slays the stage, complete with luminous trenchcoat and glitter antlers, providing Ace with some much-needed support. 

Moran also returns, bringing a smile to the audience as both Plant and Stag. As Plant, Moran made me chuckle, using brilliant facial features to bring this character to life; with this being an unspoken role, managing to steal a scene without saying a single word. As Stag, they bring high volume as a glorious drag-queen-esque deer, played with complete sass and sex appeal; looking like they’d stepped right off the runway on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Moran is an actor to watch out for, showcasing true versatility and becoming my favourite performer of the night in all three of their roles.

Technically speaking, the show is incredibly strong; with the use of limited set design being necessarily simple to portray Ace’s living space, whilst attractively dressed and used to its full potential. Paired with lighting from Laura Howard, sound design from Mwen and direction from Debbie Hannan, Faun showcases its carefully thought-out full potential to share a story that’s vitally important, real and genuine. 

Within his writer’s note, Heaven explains “I wanted to highlight the extra energy and strength people require to exist in a space they have to call home. The play ultimately celebrates the queer and trans community, enduring, nurturing and flourishing.” And this is exactly what it accomplishes. 

Faun is an unapologetically open piece, with brilliant comedic timing that makes it an absolute joy from start to end. Ace’s story teaches us to be loud and proud and our most authentic selves; making this a truly heartwarming and celebratory piece of queer theatre that feels alive and original. 

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