The West

F-word on the streets
Alison van Roeken, left, Fayssal Bazzi, Austin Castiglione, Rhoda Lopez and Kenneth Ransom. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

It's been called the play that dares not speak its name, based on the asterisks that dominate its title in polite publications such as this one.

For those who love their stats, the swear jar gets used 294 times in The Motherf**ker with the Hat, an average of 3.94 f-words per page of the script by Stephen Adly Guirgis, the award-winning writer of several plays and episodes of LAPD Blue and The Sopranos.

Director Adam Mitchell says each profanity is needed for the flow of the language in the 2011 Tony-nominated drug-world hipster comedy-drama, which has its WA premiere at Fringe World with Black Swan State Theatre Company.

Alive with the patois of New York's Puerto Rican underclass, The Motherf**ker with the Hat is a part sitcom, part Hispanic telenovela and part crime thriller, according to Mitchell.

"We don't actually hear it in rehearsal any more, to be honest," he says of the swearing. "Guirgis is just writing what he's heard on the street. He grew up on the West Side and the play takes place in Hell's Kitchen which is a famous stomping ground for the Irish gangs and then the Puerto Ricans coming through in the 1950s. Some bad stuff has taken place there.

"There is profanity but we are not hearing it like that and it is all about the rhythms," says Mitchell. He says there is something satisfying about the staccato-like harmony of the vowel and consonant combination of "motherf..ker".

"He is famous for using language like no one else I am reading. I compare him to a Mamet or Pinter, who created their own genre of putting language on the stage."

The Motherf**ker with the Hat deals with the misadventures of ex-jailbird Jackie, who is trying to stay out of trouble amid his jealous confusion of discovering another man's hat in his coke-addicted girlfriend's flat.

It carries the parental guidance warning of extremely frequent coarse language, explicit sexual descriptions, drug use and adult themes and possible nudity, which adds up to a perfect show for the Fringe.

Mitchell says the play is a pitch to lure some new, younger audiences to the State Theatre Company.

"It is not burlesque but I think it will appear to the same late-night crowd," he says. "It is good that Black Swan is doing something so risque and the subscribers are taking it up as well."

"It is exciting that the State Theatre Centre (which also will house a pop-up performance tent in its courtyard) will be one of the hubs for the Fringe as well. Hopefully we can bring a bit of life to the venue."

The Motherf**ker with the Hat is at the Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre, from January 17 to February 3.

The West Australian

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