“a thoroughly enjoyable show with craftsmanship that you don’t find every day”
Bright, genuinely funny and completely naïve – “Dumbledore Is So Gay” by writer Robert Holtom and director Tom Wright is where Harry Potter meets The Butterfly Effect.
Jack is a young man. Jack (Alex Britt) is a Pottermaniac (and not-so-proud Hufflepuff). Jack is also gay, and has a big crush on his best friend. But life is brutal, especially for young boys with a non-mainstream sexual orientation. At school and at home, he is expected to be someone quite different – or rather, be with someone quite different – therefore, he decides to utilise some Harry Potter magic to change a few things from his past.
The simplicity and minimalism of the production are actually quite impressive. The set consists of three wooden crates which are functionally a couch, a bar, school desks and even a few more things. There are only three actors – Alex Britt as Jack, alongside Max Percy and Charlotte Dowding who play multiple roles from Jack’s life – his best friends, his parents, his bullies, his teacher, his lovers. Britt’s Jack has lots of youthful naivety and charming determination which makes him delightfully relatable for young audiences. Percy and Dowding are both very skilled at making all of their parts quite unique.
Robert Holtom’s witty and poignant writing has some cleverly placed counterpoints that blend more and less serious parts into a harmonious whole. And though this harmonious whole is admittedly utterly naïve, it also remains in accord with Jack’s immature character. One may wonder if use of magical realism isn’t but an excuse for presenting triggering themes in a more digestible way, but it definitely is engaging for the target viewer. Tom Wright’s direction is smooth, clear and dynamic, deftly utilising the very limited resources (and seemingly very limited budget).
It is not a play that will change the world. It is not a play that will set a new standard for LGBTQIA+ theatre. It is, nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable show with craftsmanship that you don’t find every day.
“an impressive debut that manages to strike a chord whilst taking artistic risks”
In the programme notes for their debut show, Contingency Theatre suggest that, ‘We are more comfortable yet more insecure than we’ve ever been’. It’s a fact that’s hard to argue with. Expectation looms over our heads like storm clouds whilst we attempt to convince everyone that, in our world, everything is sunny and bright. Nowhere is this truer than in our working lives, where the pressure of success is the source of secret anxiety. Part sharp-tongued satire and part hypnotic piece of physical theatre, George tackles this very real and relevant experience in an evocative and otherworldly manner.
The show traces George’s journey from his idle days in the village to his arrival in the city. Initially reluctant to leave his old life behind, he soon becomes swept up in cosmopolitan life – but to what end? Is this what George really wants? Will conforming to society’s expectations bring him happiness?
What makes the piece so striking is how closely it engages with our innermost fears. George would rather play in the village than go to the city, but such lack of ambition is unthinkable. He is tormented by his mother and friends, who chide him with phrases like, ‘You don’t want to get left behind, do you?’ Despite living the life he wants, insecurity causes him to abandon it for the sake of conventionality. His friends Nick and Cam are anxious and eager to please. Their worth is determined by J, the mysterious boss who shapes their careers; without him, they have no sense of self. The way in which they strive for validation through success – whilst losing themselves in the process – captures this all-too-common inner conflict perfectly.
It’s hard to believe that this is Contingency Theatre’s first full-length show. Thanks to their bold vision, they already feel like a fully-fledged professional company. Their physical theatre is clever, controlled, often breath-taking. Their energy and commitment makes this form of expression just as powerful as any written script, if not more so. The bare stage and minimal props let the movement speak for itself, and is a great reminder that the human body can create believable worlds just as well as extravagant sets.
The three performers are highly watchable. Barbara Blanka commands attention as George. Despite the reluctance of the audience to interact with her, Blanka still manages to evoke their sympathy and believe in her portrayal. Max Percy and Igor Smith give the show a sinister edge: their portrayal of George’s mother is especially creepy. Yet, like Blanka, they both tap into the vulnerability of their characters to great effect.
George is an impressive debut that manages to strike a chord whilst taking artistic risks. The result is a show that is emotionally familiar, visually strange, and exciting to watch.