After the Act - New Diorama
Queer voices reclaim the narrative
From 1988 to 2003 Section 28 prohibited the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. With the legislation being purposely vague it meant groups self-censored, teachers, in particular, were not able to discuss queer relationships or families for fear of prosecution - all with the supposed aim of protecting children. Breach’s new production seeks to uncover the events that led to the implementation of this horrendous clause and the lingering impact still felt twenty years on from its repeal.
Through truly powerful and heartbreaking verbatim, Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett’s script portrays the build-up to the law’s enacting. It is rough around the edges in its delivery but more than fitting of the homegrown protest style. Through song and spoken word we hear the protest, the debates and the inevitable journey of the law through parliament as language once deemed unacceptable becomes the norm. The verbatim words from those affected so mighty, cutting through the noise so we as an audience can understand the true effect on queer children and adults alike by the damaging bill.
Stunning video design from Zack Hein adds timely context to the text, utilising archival footage and imagery to fill Lizzy Leech’s layered set. When discussing some of the literature that fuelled the homophobic arguments, the projection neatly frames the performances within the pages so they can act out the oh so controversial (not at all) scenes of books such as Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. The musical numbers though effective in telling the story are not destined to be natural earworms, but they are rousing and powerful nonetheless - delivered with true authenticity. The choreography and singing are not the neatest but they are far from the most important elements on display here.
In the second act, the focus shifts to the 90s and eventually the wounds unable to fully heal, notably pointing out the similarities that Section 28 has to the current attacks on trans peoples’ rights - asking whether we have learnt anything since 1988. The United States prominently battling this once again with those arguments already spilling over into the UK media and politics. But this production states we need “affirmation not change,” because we already tried to change people and that didn’t work.
This production thrives in making a complex, political and societal narrative profoundly accessible - empowering queer individuals to tell their side of the story after being effectively silenced for 15 years. As a child of the later 90s I lacked the knowledge around this issue but now find myself more confident to talk about these issues and to recognise the parallels drawn to the necessary campaigns of today. An essential education through theatre.
Running till 1 April - Tickets
Photography - Alex Brenner