International Stud: not a drag

Christian Butler

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Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, the seminal trilogy of plays about a Jewish drag queen who longs for love, takes over four hours long to perform in its entirety. A new revival of the first play in the trilogy, International Stud, is being performed at the Fringe this year in a more digestible 50-minute form. This part of the trilogy follows Arnold Beckoff, the protagonist, and his relationship with Ed, a man uncomfortable with his bisexuality.

Arnold comes in the surprise form of CJ de Mooi, known to some as a professional quizzer and former fixture on the BBC quiz show Eggheads. He left the show in 2011 to pursue an acting career, which has included acting in a double bill of two of Fierstein’s other plays, Safe Sex and On Tidy Endings, at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London.

De Mooi’s Arnold is radically different to that of Fierstein’s, who originally played the iconic part. But it is convincing nonetheless, and De Mooi, along with co-star Reed Strokes, bring Fierstein’s masterful exploration of sexuality and identity in a pre-AIDS world to life.

Highly thoughtful and moving, this show’s no drag.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

International Stud is at C Venues – C until 31 August.

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