Theatre, Drama
2 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz Ashley McGuire Arthur Darvill and Andy Williams
 (© Ellie Kurrtz)
© Ellie Kurrtz Arthur Darvill and Ashley McGuire
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz Arthur Darvill and Griffyn Gilligan
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz Arthur Darvill
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz Ashley McGuire and Andy Williams
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz Ashley McGuire
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz Griffyn Gilligan and Arthur Darvill
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz Griffyn Gilligan

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Taylor Mac's toxic drama about a very queer family

INTERVIEW: Queer art superstar Taylor Mac

Queer New York artist and playwright Taylor Mac’s ‘Hir’ is an artfully nasty comedy centring on a family who’ve been fucked up twice over: first by their abusive, lazy patriarch, and then again by an America in which the rural working class end up on bottom.

Isaac is a case in point. Former ‘Doctor Who’ companion Arthur Darvill plays the disgraced marine who’s just returned from a hopelessly bleak-sounding tour in Afghanistan, picking up body parts. And his already-fractured mind pretty much smashes into pieces when he realises his family home has turned into an explosion of chaos, dirty laundry and queer politics. His father has had a stroke, so his formerly abused wife has turned the tables by gleefully emasculating him with wigs and make-up. And his sibling Max has come out as transgender (the title’s ‘hir’) – Griffyn Gilligan turns in a fine performance as a teenager torn between sulkiness and missionary zeal for the intricacies of gender fluidity.

Ideas of queerness are bandied round with exhilarating energy. Max has a great extended riff on the gender-fluid animals Noah’s Ark forgot: wolves, squid and polyamorous squid. But these ideas are also totally undermined by the play’s determination to use them as punchlines. Isaac is a thinly written foil who meets each new revelation with hammed-up incredulity. Or, even worse, he vomits extravagantly into the kitchen sink.

At best, ‘Hir’ is a study of how an abusive father can be a hurricane whirling in the middle of a living room, contorting every other family into weird shapes as they try to exist alongside him. And of the chaos that reigns when that force is lost.

But by making the father a spent force, a laughable (and pretty offensive) caricature of someone living with brain damage, the play’s balance tips. Ashley McGuire makes a hilarious, believable matriarch-gone-rogue, but I found it hard to chuckle along with the appallingly cruel, feminism-inspired revenge she metes out on her now-disabled husband – her present, visible violence easily outweighs his past sins.

Mac has marshalled all his skill towards her exchanges with her children, full of biting one-liners and violent set-piece arguments, but the same pointed energy is missing when it comes to the piece’s drive. Like a sitcom, we never move beyond the scenario that’s been set in place. And it’s a pretty cruel world to be stuck in, where utopian ideas of queerness and feminism subside into toxic waste. In director Nadia Fall’s tonally uneven, heightened production, there’s much to admire but little to love.

By: Alice Saville



Users say (3)

3 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3 / 5

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This is a bizarre play. It throws up so many interesting questions and avenues to follow but, as is the way with anything so multi-faceted, fails to resolve any of them. Ashley Maguire was ill on the day I saw it so the mother was played with script in hand. Whilst it was done very well, it did shatter the illusion somewhat. 

But that illusion was already stretched. The play throws you into a world of misogyny, daddy issues, gender issues, mental health issues, hoarding, war, PTSD, drugs, violence, broken homes and capitalist ideals as part of the American dream. And that's just the first few that came to mind, the list does not stop there. With such a smorgasbord of problems to think about, you quickly realise that this play probably isn't going anywhere. You begin to focus more on each individual character but it adds little clarity to the muddle.

The traverse worked well; the set was good and well laid out, the action easy to follow and the performances seemed to fit the bill. Whether you wish to be barricaded by topical issue after topical issue is for you to decide but I probably wouldn't recommend this for anyone but a hardened theatre goer.  


It's taken me about 24 hours to process exactly what I thought of Hir, and the conclusion I've reached is that, whilst there are positives, the show as a whole is a bit of a mess.

The performances themselves are solid. No complaints there.

And the staging works well.

However, the script tries to cram in way too much. There are Important Themes flying about all over the place, meaning that none of them are properly dealt with. Another huge detraction is the fact that the mental/physical health of the characters is often treated, at best, lightly or, at worst, as a joke. That did not sit well.

Hir could have been an amazing bit of theatre. Instead, a waspish script is held together by some sound acting. It isn't a write-off, but your time could be better spent elsewhere.


Hir is challenging and confrontational. In Paige Connor, Taylor Mac has created a 21st Century dramatic monster. Released from years of oppression and abuse by the happy accident of Arnold Connor's stroke, she is using her new found freedom to wreak revenge on world in general and her husband in particular. Ashley McGuire is exceptional as Paige, she exudes a logical, manic cruelty. Her youngest child is transgender and she uses the politics of gender fluidity like a weapon, which she swings to beat back the wrongs of a society that she believes kept her in thrall for the majority of her life.

All four actors put in great intense performances. There are many very funny, if slightly bitter, exchanges. The dialogue is clever and angry. It is uncomfortable to watch but I am in no doubt, this is a great play.