Performer/Writer: J.Fergus Evans
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Travel Agents across the land are likely to take out an injunction against J Fergus Evans. Evans eschews the need for passports, visas and a long transatlantic flight, conjuring up instead the evocative setting of America’s deep south with just a few simple props and evocative wordplay.
In a tiny office space backstage at the New Wolsey Theatre, for just nine audience members at a time, Evans invites us all to journey with him to the place he calls home – Atlanta, Georgia. The American south is renowned for its hospitality and Evans welcomes his audience into his home, literally and spiritually. His warmth and geniality emerges from the outset, engaging the audience in conversation, asking about the places they consider home.
Evans connection with Georgia though is no rose-tinted tourist board-sponsored travelogue. While there is clear affection for the area he grew up in, it’s an affection tempered with pain.
We’re warned of the dangers of living in Georgia and given tips on what to do if we ever meet a black bear or an alligator and advised to check our towels and toilet seats for venomous spiders but it’s other dangers that stick in the memory of Evans. In a state where homosexuality was illegal until 1998 and subject to a harsher prison term than both bestiality and necrophilia, growing up with confused teenage feelings for both the prom queen and her brother is unlikely to end on a happy note and, as Evans recounts tales of terrorist pipe bombings, that sense of danger becomes all too real.
Evans’ laidback genial style mixes anecdote with poetry and prose, beautifully constructed and conveying a sense that this is a genuine two-way sharing of connection and memory. It may be the tale of Evans’ upbringing but there’s a universal commonality here that audiences can’t fail to resonate with – regardless of where they call home.
After tasting peaches and bourbon we’re released back into the UK evening but it’s hard to forget that hour we spent magically and convincingly transported across the Atlantic to Georgia.