Perhaps that headline is a bit over-the-top. Then again, so was this entire show! Maybe it was just this Torontoist’s own expectations that a show selling itself as a gay hip hop opera couldn’t really take itself too seriously; would be ironic; would be tongue-in-cheek. Not so. BASH’d is a gay hip hop opera that wants you to know that it is a gay hip hop opera and there’s nothing wrong with that!
There’s been a lot of buzz and excitement about BASH’d, in no small part because one of the show’s two performers/creators is Chris Craddock, the brains behind the deliriously awesome boyband parody Boygroove that enjoyed success at last year’s Fringe and beyond. But BASH’d doesn’t have an ounce of that show’s humour, silliness or humility. Instead we get some very heavy-handed and sentimental theatre with a message made all the more ridiculous by the fact that its text consists of a couple of white guys rapping about blowjobs.
The story is about a young gay couple who meet, fall in love, get married and have a lovely queer-positive life together until one of the couple is beaten up by a gang of homophobes, provoking his husband to some rather ill-advised vigilantism with predictably tragic results. This is a hard show to criticize because of its subject matter. Its heart is certainly in the right place: queer bashing and homophobia are wrong and it’s entirely understandable that someone would want to explore these themes through theatre. But the delivery comes across as patronizing and exploitative, particularly a section in which the two performers rap off the names of famously-murdered homosexuals like Matthew Shepard. This moment also serves as a reminder that good, queer-positive theatre can be made about gay-bashing, like The Laramie Project, which is all about the Shepard killing. While that piece approached the subject matter with sensitivity and respect, BASH’d seems like a slightly more cuss-filled version of motivational assembly in a high school auditorium booked by some vice principal who thought hip hop would be a good way to teach kids about tolerance.