Theater archives

Bash’d!: Rap, Now Even Gayer


Bash’d! had me at “cocksuckaz.” When Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow—two white Canadians who look more like character actors than rappers—strut onto the Zipper stage in off-pink duds to a big, stomping beat and throw down multisyllabic rhymes like hip-hop pros, it’s not just their formidable mastery of the style that convinces, but the balls-out content: “All you real faggots pump your wrists in the air/It’s OK to be gay, freely out, and aware/We don’t like ‘faggot’ when it’s said by them/But when we say it, it’s like a word that starts with N.”

Reclaiming a slur as a badge of pride is a familiar ploy, but what makes it click (and stick) here is that Craddock and Cuckow—in the guise of rap avatars T-Bag and Feminem—manage to repurpose “faggot” and “cocksucka” within hostile territory: an aggressively butch medium that uses these same words dismissively, not to say hatefully. Bash’d is a triumph on many other levels, but its most unlikely, and profound, victory is this potent, transformative pop-culture hybrid: gangsta queer.

This alternately joyous and angry style fits the show’s sweet, archetypal love story, which comes with a cautionary kick: Canada’s 2005 Civil Marriage Act may have made same-sex love legit, but legally married queers aren’t just progressive heroes—they also happen to make convenient targets, sometimes literally, for an ugly backlash. With Aaron Macri’s bright, deep beats and Ron Jenkins’s relentless direction, Bash’d is, in all senses, a deeply moving shout-out.