Nggrfg (2 stars)

This article is from 2012


Stereotypically confessional coming-of-age tale

Aged 16, Buddy aspires to grow up to become Canada’s Prime Minister. His teacher pooh-poohs the idea: ‘Because your bl …’ He checks himself. ‘I’ve never known a politician as – um – flamboyant as you.’

Buddy’s too camp to be black and too black to be camp. Time and again, he slams up against these twin prejudicial pistons. As a young actor, he can’t fit the casting cliches – leading to an amusing audition for a gangsta role. Caught skipping in the playground aged seven-and-a-half, he’s rechristened Toby, a brand-new ‘slave name’.

With subject matter like this, there’s an inevitably potency; not least because it feels intimate and raw. Nonetheless, the framework and performance register are so stereotypically confessional, Nggrfg feels almost like a teenage diary adapted into an audition piece that demonstrates versatility. Lively though writer-performer Berend McKenzie is, he can’t quite find the things in Buddy’s story that make it a one-off.

In fairness, the stories are better than the often grindingly literal staging, so if you can look beyond the format, it’s not worth striking off entirely.

theSpace on the Mile, 0845 508 8316, until 18 Aug, 7.20pm, £7 (£5).



  • 2 stars

Nggrfg is a gripping, true, sometimes funny story, about homophobia and racism. In a series of stories based on his life, actor/writer Berend McKenzie presents his one-man show Nggrfg about Buddy, a boy growing up both black (n gger) and gay (fag), who is the target of taunts and marginalization. Buddy fluctuates between…