Femme Ta Bouche (2 stars)

Femme Ta Bouche

Heartfelt and energetic intentions fall short in a lightweight Fringe attack on hypocrisy and bigotry

Femme Ta Bouche is an ambitious show that condemns racial, gender and sexual bigotry. Set in the American south, it follows drag artist Femme as she challenges a preacher who, many years earlier, had attempted to convert their sexuality into something more 'respectable'. Femme teams up with an African-American filmmaker, enters the compound of a gay conversion therapy camp and faces off against the villainous cleric in a triumphant moment of self-expression.

Unfortunately, the script's passion is undermined by some uneven performances, as lines are lost and accents falter. The sheer number of heady themes – Femme's cancer, the documentarian's own battle against both the preacher and racism, Femme's hippy grandmother's personal descent into a fantasy world – battle for space in a script that certainly moves at a good pace. But ultimately it fails to articulate an argument beyond general anti-homophobic and anti-racist positions. The production's intention is heartfelt, energetic and compassionate, but the lack of a credible opposition – the preacher is a hellfire stereotype with his own sexual secret – prevents the drama from rising above Femme's melodramatic pronouncements.

This failure to add to a familiar debate, or lend the characters a depth beyond their symbolic status representing a moral position, undermines the drama's impact. In its current short format, the simple melodrama of drag artist against a closeted and abusive religious fanatic becomes overwhelmed by the desire to address other issues. With its straightforward direction, compassionate political dynamism and moments of humour and intensity, Femme Ta Bouche glimmers with potential even as it falls short.

Femme Ta Bouche, theSpaceTriplex, until Saturday 21 August, 7.35pm, £10 (£8).

Femme Ta Bouche

  • 2 stars

A Drunken Sailor 'Goddamn it, shut your thin-lipped mouth! You need to shut your mouth and just listen for once, OK!?' Femme Ta Bouche has cancer. Cooped up in her grandmother's trailer in Arkansas to convalesce, she longs to be back on the stage in New York. Instead, she plans one last outrageous stunt – she will return…