Tag Archives: Ellie Showering

After the Act

After the Act


New Diorama Theatre

AFTER THE ACT at the New Diorama Theatre


After the Act

“a powerful and inspired piece of theatre”


In 1988, the Conservative government introduced a series of laws across Britain under Section 28 that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities. Whipped up by media panic and the Danish book ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’, the bill had a devastating effect on the lives of LGBTQ+ people and still leaves a terrifying legacy within the teaching profession.

20 years after the infamous bills’ repeal, multi-award-winning theatre company Breach (It’s True, It’s True, It’s True) have transformed archival interviews from teachers, activists and students who lived and worked during the reign of Section 28 into a verbatim musical complete with impassioned songs accompanied by 80s synth. Directed by company co-founder Billy Barrett, this musical feels all the more pertinent as trans rights become more restrictive than ever within the United Kingdom.

The cast – Tika Mu’tamir, Ellice Stevens (also co-founder and writer), EM Williams and Zachary Willis – re-enact the accounts of various different stakeholders in the bill whilst wearing a jazzy selection of 80s outfits. The singing is for the most part quite strong – especially Mu’tamir – though more is spoken than explicitly sung so that the words used can be thoroughly digested by the audience. A jaunty tune relaying the various slurs hurled at gay people is particularly good.

There is a vague chronology to the show though we jump back and forward in time when best suits. We begin with the storming of the BBC TV Studio by lesbian activists before following the campaign of terror launched by the Tory party and right-wing groups over materials available via Haringey Council to present a positive image of gay and lesbian people. Other iconic moments include a group of activists abseiling into the House of Lords after Section 28 is made law as well as various debates within the Commons where homophobic comments are made with (pardon the pun) gay abandon.

Stevens gives a particularly fantastic performance. Her comic timing is impeccable and her performance as a near-drag Margaret Thatcher to open the second half is simply fantastic. Williams and Mu’tamir provide great support and narrative direction as they effectively recreate one interview between pairs of lesbian activitists who took part in the storming of the BBC and abseiling into the House of Lords to protest the bill respectively. Willis brings a wonderful tenderness to his retelling of a young gay man who attempted suicide at school due to the lack of support, guidance or communication about his sexuality.

Archival footage and backdrops are projected onto the sets various layered walls (Leach). These are sometimes playful, at other times deadly serious as we see young men in hospital with AIDS. The use of video adds great movement to the set that is otherwise rather plain though makes great use of levels and steps to enhance the space. The musicians – Frew and Ellie Showering – station themselves above the stage on a raised platform and provide a thoroughly energetic performance.

A sheer sheet and projector is used for a fair chunk of the first half which works particularly well when we are watching Sue Lawley deliver her news broadcast but provides a bit of a psychological barrier as we move to real-life testimony. It is welcome when it is removed. It is also a shame that the platform on which the musicians are stationed is not utilised for the famous abseil though health and safety concerns are of course understood!

After the Act is a powerful and inspired piece of theatre. The songs are inventive and engaging and the performances are thoroughly heartfelt. This is a must-see.


Reviewed on 9th March 2023

by Flora Doble

Photography by Alex Brenner



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Project Dictator | ★★½ | April 2022


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The Sugar House

The Sugar House


Finborough Theatre

The Sugar House

The Sugar House

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 5th November 2021



“it’s hard to find fault in this production. Forceful, despairing and, I don’t mind admitting, quite tearful”


In light of this week’s #FreeLunchGate, I’d first like to say I was given a small plastic cup of house white at the beginning of the show. Despite this glamourous perk, I will do my best to give a balanced and fair review…

The Finborough Theatre is not a large theatre. In its current layout, it can seat 40, maybe 50 at a push. So to have a cast of six for such a little audience feels very exclusive, particularly after the seeming endless spate of one-person plays in the last year. It’s a real joy to see a full cast interacting, laying out their various intimacies and tensions. The stage is pretty tight, but The Sugar House is a family drama, and the small space only emphasises the family dynamics, sometimes chaotic, sometimes conspiratorial, the audience sat right in the lap of the action.

This is ostensibly a story about the Macreadies, a working-class family in 1960s Australia who are struggling to get out from under, set against a backdrop of Australia’s last state execution and a long unending fight against police corruption.

But it’s universal in its particularity, exploring problems of generational poverty, endemic hypocrisy and modern society’s love of destroying the old in favour of the new and expensive. And at its core, it’s about how painful and drawn-out real change necessarily is.

Director Tom Brennan has brought together a strong, scrappy cast. Everyone carries a double-edge of deep misery and wry humour throughout the script, and though I’m no expert in Australian accents, I didn’t hear a single bum note throughout, something I’d otherwise find incredibly distracting.

Janine Ulfane, playing the grandmother, gives an especially complex performance. Her character is loveable but deeply flawed, and Ulfane deftly explores all the varying shades between. Jessica Zerlina Leafe, playing the granddaughter Narelle, carries the main weight of the play, opening in the ‘present day’ as an adult, morphing in to her eight-year-old self in the ‘60s, eventually becoming an angry belligerent twenty-six-year-old in the ‘80s. It is a little bit jarring watching an adult play an eight-year-old for nigh on an hour, but given the quick changes and multi-decade-spanning timeline, I can see why Leafe has to play the child as well as the adult.

Justin Nardella’s design is necessarily simple, but doesn’t feel at all lacking. A white brick wall with a mulled window acts as both a versatile set-piece and a projection wall, showing footage of Ronald Ryan, the last man to hang in Australia, as well as the cogs and wheels of the old sugar house, where Narelle’s grandpa worked, and various other titbits. A desk and two fold-out chairs serve any other prop requirements for the most part, leaving space to focus on the cast whose number already nearly clutters the stage.

There are no superfluous scenes, or boring chunks of dialogue, nonetheless, writer Alana Valentine could do with cutting twenty minutes, just for pace’s sake. Otherwise, it’s hard to find fault in this production. Forceful, despairing and, I don’t mind admitting, quite tearful.


Reviewed by Finborough Theatre

Photography by Pamela Raith


The Sugar House

Finborough Theatre until 20th November


Other review from Miriam this year:
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Reunion | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | June 2021
Lava | ★★★★ | Bush Theatre | July 2021
The Narcissist | ★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021
Aaron And Julia | ★★½ | The Space | September 2021
White Witch | ★★ | Bloomsbury Theatre | September 2021
Tender Napalm | ★★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | October 2021


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