Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 Theatre Review: Good Morning, Faggi (Summerhall) ★★★★

This charismatic, coming of age journey is skillfully performed and deftly devised. It challenges the audience to consider how liberals centre themselves in coming-out narratives, and question if tolerance is enough to end systemic oppression.

Axel Ingi Árnason and Bjarni Snæbjörnsson in Good Morning, Faggi. Photo Credit: Leifur Wilberg.

Good Morning, Faggi is the kind of show that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is all about. Playing on preconceptions about Scandic countries as liberal paradises, this semi-autobigraphical musical explores internalised homophobia and its impact on mental health. Full of humour, pathos and show-stopping songs that are West End ready, it is clear why the production has been such a hit in the creators’ homeland.

Written by performer Bjarni Snæbjörnsson, director Gréta Kristín Ómarsdóttir and composer Axel Ingi Árnason, the piece draws on diaries and personal experiences. Snæbjörnsson is seriously charming, and the rapport with the audience is instantly established in his opening number and introduction. At first, it seems to be rather self-congratulatory, as he talks about a wonderful upbringing and how open-minded Icelandic society is. That vision is suddenly dashed, however, when Snæbjörnsson reveals that he had a nervous breakdown in 2019, sobbing uncontrollably at the side of the road with no understanding of why.

Bjarni Snæbjörnsson in Good Morning, Faggi. Photo Credit: Leifur Wilberg.

Working through his diaries, Snæbjörnsson attempts to understand what led to his sudden collapse, unpicking the early evidence of repressing his sexuality and self. Árnason is a constant and supportive presence on the stage, accompanying the songs and interjecting at times to add harmonies and dialogue. The show does feel a little rushed in some sections, perhaps as a result of squeezing into an hour slot when it certainly justifies a longer run time.

In addition to his winsome stage presence, Snæbjörnsson has a seriously great voice. Strong, with superb control and command of dynamics, this often feels like an “audience with” event with a star of the musicals. Árnason’s songs are first rate, and it is no wonder that both were nominated for the Icelandic Theatre Awards in the Singer of the Year and Music of the Year catergories respectively.

Bjarni Snæbjörnsson in Good Morning, Faggi. Photo Credit: Leifur Wilberg.

Snæbjörnsson is keenly aware of his privilege as a white, cis man, as he is clear that being the “most digestible type of gay person” contributed to his ability to survive. In a poignant final speech, he highlights that many do not, particularly those members of the queer community who do not have these advantages.

Good Morning, Faggi is a wholly enjoyable and surprisingly moving production, and both the message and the memorable songs will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

By Deborah Klayman

Good Morning, Faggi plays at Summerhall, Edinburgh until 27th August 2023.

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