Baklâ @ Summerhall

Fringe First winner Max Percy + Friends returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with a groundbreaking solo show

Review by Charlotte Chapman | 22 Aug 2023
  • Bakla

2022 Fringe First Winner Max Percy + Friends return to the festival this year with Baklâ, a one-person show that catapults its audience on a journey spanning half a century, from the Spanish occupation of the Philippines to the modern experience of growing up queer in a Catholic community.

Percy interrogates "Baklâ", a derogatory Tagalog term for "homosexual", using dance, physical theatre and monologue to explore his Filipino identity. Fragmented vignettes portray everything from the intergenerational trauma that shapes a nation, to the electric, liberating energy of queer spaces. Through these fragments, Percy invites the audience to explore his every aspect both physically and psychologically. His physical storytelling is captivating; at times, the viewer feels trapped, unsettled, and yet unable to look away.

This is largely due to Percy’s magnetic stage presence and profound writing. These talents combine to create a show with daring physical stunts and moments of startling intimacy. Oozing lazy charm in one moment, shaking and shuddering on the ground in the next, he never allows the audience to truly settle. Chilling scenes of native repression are broken up by titillating flirtation with the audience, who struggle to stifle a snort as they watch an old man pleasure himself in an anorak. The pace of the show is therefore best described as whiplash, though the unforgiving transitions are well-suited to a performance as raw and exposed as this. 

Considering the massive cultural and political undertaking of the show, Baklâ is all the more impressive for its depth. While Percy exits the stage, the audience are left there for some time – Baklâ has a way of keeping you in its dark, suggestive embrace long after the curtains have fallen. This is a groundbreaking piece that is sure to provoke thought. 

Baklâ, Summerhall (Demonstration Room), until 27 Aug, 1pm, £15