An entertaining and humorous autibiography, Becoming Austin Nation considers the progress from HIV diagnosis in 1986 to his best Black gay drag life.
Filmed during the Hollywood Fringe Festival, this is a concise and buoyant race through the highs and lows of Austin Nation’s life “from crack to PhD”.
Nation, weaving his way through the audience to make an understated entrance, is a storyteller who effortlessly connects with his audience.
His story is one of endurance, compasssion, and survival. Enduring the curveballs of drug addiction and HIV+ diagnosis, he reinvents himself as a drag persona.
An honest depuction of Black gay life and all its associated discrimination, Nation’s story is delivered without self-pity or rancour. The stage is bare except for a dressing-up table with mirrors, a rack of outfits, a wig on a stand.
Using snatches of songs to illustrate his story from LGBT+ anthems to TV theme classics, Nation makes his story universal and accessible as he creates his character.
This is a show which is not afraid to tackle tough topics from racism to homophobia, drug use to the stigma of disease, but in such a way that is often funny and always memorable.
At just under an hour, this show feels as if it is paced and planned at the right length; less would not do the story justice and more might outstay its welcome.
The filming is rather static, with just one camera, but the sound is excellent and Nation’s charisma is as potent as if you were in the room.
You can stream Becoming Austin Nation on-demand during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with tickets available here.
*** (and a half)