Tag Archives: New Diorama Theatre

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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For Black Boys

For Black Boys …


Royal Court

For Black Boys

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy 

Royal Court Theatre – Jerwood Theatre Downstairs


Reviewed – 7th April 2022



“a special, important piece of writing, and beautifully executed”


This show is not just a bunch of moving parts, gathered together. This is a whole, a collective: the music informs the text informs the design informs the lighting informs the performances. And it all moves in perfect synchronicity.

Taking place in an unidentified safe space, these six Black Boys come from different families, different backgrounds, and yet they all feel the weight of the monolithic ‘Black Man’: A black man doesn’t cry, he doesn’t show any weakness, he doesn’t need love.

Each character has a chance to speak his piece, be that regarding primary or secondary school, paternal relationships, romance, further education, or inescapable violence. And each is received without judgement, without fear of rejection.

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Considering it’s an entire play of exposition, you’d think it would get tired pretty quickly, but writer-director Ryan Calais Cameron shows the depths and widths of this subject, the many angles and refractions, and he finely laces what is incredibly serious and unsmiling with so much tenderness and humour. He’s not afraid to take a very sombre moment and morph it in to a joke and then back again, or vice versa. For example, Midnight (Kaine Lawrence) tells us how he lost his virginity when he was nine to his babysitter. It’s the sort of messed up story boys are made to feel they should brag about. But obviously Midnight is traumatised, and while he’s trying to downplay his trauma (“And I can see you lot looking at me like I’m a victim”) the group starts singing, “I just want you to know that you are really special” from Snoop Dog and Pharrell’s ‘Beautiful’. They start in earnest, gathering closer and closer, embracing him tight, eventually breaking into affectionate laughter.

This is just one of so many moments which aren’t simply one thing- funny or sad; silly or serious. And the performances reflect this atmospheric plurality: everyone is somehow both acutely self-aware and touchingly naïve; honest in their disagreements and yet open to change; able to flip a smile in to a grimace with one breath.

Obviously this safe space is a fantasy, but these characters are so multifaceted, their interactions so genuine, it feels like maybe there’s a future where this kind of open dialogue could really exist.

Anna Reid’s design works in perfect tandem with this idea, using bold block colours to create a space that is both welcoming and Utopian. Layered with Rory Beaton’s equally bold lighting design, it feels isolating and inclusive in turn, giving each character their moments of solitude and fraternity.

And the dancing, and the singing, and the almost jukebox-style curation of a flawless soundtrack. There is so much to wax lyrical about. Each performer is so in sync with his part, it feels like it must have been workshopped, but I don’t see how given that the script is basically an epic poem.

Such a special, important piece of writing, and beautifully executed.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Ali Wright


For Black Boys …

Royal Court Theatre until 30th April


Reviewed by Miriam this year:
Moulin Rouge! | ★★★ | Piccadilly Theatre | January 2022
She Seeks Out Wool | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | January 2022
Two Billion Beats | ★★★½ | Orange Tree Theatre | February 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | Wilton’s Music Hall | February 2022


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