Dumbledore is so Gay
Online – Filmed at the Pleasance Theatre
Reviewed – 6th October 2021
“the play struggles to engage, too often feeling more like a public service announcement than a piece of theatre”
Remember when JK Rowling shook the world in 2007 by announcing that Dumbledore was gay? It was arguably an entirely tokenistic move, with the author failing to meaningfully mention the character’s sexuality in the seven book series she’d just completed. Nonetheless, it still displayed a small shuffle forward in representation, introducing a LGBTQ+ character into a major franchise and sparking the kinds of discussions that Dumbledore is So Gay delves into.
The play follows Jack (Alex Britt), a Harry Potter fanatic growing up gay in a culture that uses the word as an insult. He has to suffer through societally entrenched homophobia from his friends, classmates, and parents (all played by the multiroling Max Percy and Charlotte Dowding), as many young people have had to do. However, the difference is that Jack is armed with a time turner, the time-travelling necklace that Hermione uses in The Prisoner of Azkaban. In this play, Jack uses it to try to alter the timeline so that his fantasies are manifested, but has to reckon with some harsh realities.
The script, written by Robert Holtom, doesn’t feel like it ever really embraces the concept, however – the differences between the timelines feel quite unadventurous and tame. A lot of the dialogue is also very on the nose, as if Holtom doesn’t trust that the audience for this show is most likely going to be comprised of people who already subscribe to the idea that homophobia is bad. As a result, the play struggles to engage, too often feeling more like a public service announcement than a piece of theatre.
The performances, too, are a mixed bag. Britt inhabits the role of Jack excellently, but has the same intonation on a lot of his lines that makes the dialogue feel wearisome. Percy over-caricaturises most of his characters, which works initially but ultimately exacerbates the script issues. And Dowding thankfully strikes a great balance of comedy and pathos across her characters that’s fantastically engaging. Overall, it feels like a tonal misstep from director Tom Wright.
There are positives to the show: the lighting design (Rory Beaton) and sound design (Peter Wilson) are both stellar, and Darius Shu’s filming for the stream is highly professional and beautifully executed. However, these elements are building on flawed foundations – Dumbledore is So Gay feels like it entered the conversation about ten years too late for the messages it wants to share.
Reviewed by Ethan Doyle
Photography by Alex Brenner
Dumbledore is so Gay
Online until 18th October from dumbledoreissogay.ticketco.events
Other shows reviewed this year by Ethan: