What is it that makes us who we are? Is it more important to consider where we come from or where we’re going? In AJ Lamarque’s solo show, he uses comedy and poetry to explore his identity of being mixed-race, queer, young, and living cross-culturally in Sydney from London.
Inspired by a poem Lamarque wrote when he was feeling lost, English Breakfast combined a range of Lamarque’s experiences, observations, and creative outlets in a show about his identity but also about the process of identifying yourself at the meeting point of racial, social, and sexual worlds. Structured around a skit of a radio special demonstrating the recipe for the perfect cup of tea, Lamarque certainly leaned into an ironic British twee aesthetic which he then counter-balanced with earnest epilogues to each section of the show, underscoring the takeaway or life lesson he has picked up and is passing along.
The majority of the stand-up featured was anecdotal, covering Lamarque’s observations living in a housing estate in London with his mixed-race family, moving to the US and encountering another racial paradigm, and then moving to Sydney where he came out and entered the queer scene as a drag queen. Rather than making cookie-cutter jabs at the various cultures he has come in contact with, Lamarque’s stories were fresh and unique with unexpected commentary and humour that demonstrated his keen eye but also his generous involvement in the communities he spoke about.
One stand-out story was about Lamarque’s accidental escapade into womanhood when he was mistaken for one by a cab-driver while in drag. Others made astute observations about code-switching when speaking to co-workers outside of your class or about the enormous body-image pressures amongst Australian gay men. Each anecdote was told with a warm confidence that revealed Lamarque’s experiential wisdom in encountering and engaging with outsiders, insiders, and the in-between, which came across as highly intelligent and refreshing.
Closing with the poem that inspired it all, an extended metaphor about how identity is about so many mixed variables just like the tea leaves, milk, and water of the perfect cup of tea, Lamarque demonstrated a lot of heart and vulnerability amongst his quick, neat jokes.
English Breakfast ran at the Barracks on September 10th as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival
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