Dysfunctional families have been a staple of theatre since the age of Greek tragedies. Yet the likes of Medea and Oedipus have nothing on the Connor family at the heart of Hir. New York playwright Taylor Mac's creations have raised the bar and smashed through the glass ceiling, with characters so mad they dare you to try and match it.
The brilliant staging sets the scene for this perfectly, the lights rising on a tsunami of clothes and clutter. It's an instant warning sign for eldest son Isaac (Arlo Green), returning home from war, that all is not right.
He quickly discovers the gender politics his family have crafted in his absence. Mother Paige (Rima Te Wiata) has taken charge after father Arnold (Nathaniel Lees) suffered a stroke, dressing him in a nightgown and force feeding him oestrogen as revenge for years of abuse. Her spiteful self has emerged after gender-transitioning youngest child Max (Adam Rohe) began home school, opening Paige's mind to gender theory and transforming their home from one ruled by toxic masculinity into this frosty take on female emancipation.
As Hir unfolds, the subversion and weaponisation of gender identity theories becomes more obvious and the complexities of the implementations are unpacked. Hir truly shines when each character's flaws are laid bare, blurring the lines between sympathy and detest.
It is a testament to director Sophie Roberts and the cast that these nuances are fairly balanced and fully explored. Rohe is petulant perfection as Max; Green finds the compassion in Isaac's heterosexual anger. Yet it is Te Wiata who owns the stage, her presence so powerful that even when she leaves you can sense Paige grimacing and smirking in the corner. She says so much with a single squawk and a raised eyebrow, turning this caricature into a fully fleshed out modern day icon.
While the chaotic climax does not wrap things up as neatly as it seems to think, Hir is a powerful and provoking piece of theatre, a working-class manifesto of liberation and matriarchy that creates new theories as it dissimulates old ones.
Where & when: Silo Theatre, until August 25
Reviewed by: Ethan Sills