Dumbledore is so Gay
Reviewed – 27th February 2020
“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.
Reviewed by Dominika Fleszar
Photography by Gabriel Mokake
The Cluedo Club Killings
King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 29th July 2018
“Robert Holtom’s admirable script does keep the audience guessing”
An open coffin dominates the space. Dr Black, recently deceased, lies inside, resting in peace. There’s been a murder, “a most grave affair”… Thus begins Arcola Queer Collective’s unique theatrical attempt at redefining the murder mystery genre. Directed by Nat Kennedy, the show is fun, frivolous and a little bit naughty, creating an enticing crime fiction plot whilst simultaneously reconfiguring the symbolism that make the genre so watchable.
The titular student-ran Cluedo Club regularly meet to dress up in colour-coded character and play everyone’s favourite murder mystery board game. But one night, a power cut disrupts the fooling around, and Reverend Green’s body is found stabbed with a knife in the kitchen. Whodunnit? What secrets are the Cluedo Club trying to hide? Enter Miss Marple wannabe Esther Jones to solve the case using her extensive knowledge of crime fiction to whittle down the suspects. Robert Holtom’s admirable script does keep the audience guessing, and the layering of fictional tropes atop of a real-life crime means the audience learn, guess and deduce with Esther throughout. Some witty one-liners (“Watch out for any lead piping!”) pepper the script, and its overstated, over-the-top style is taken on well by the ensemble. Holtom has almost created a sub-genre of their own – is this the beginning of a queer crime series?
Each character is thoughtfully established and a treat to watch. Despite some shake-y, student-y performances, Jones is by far the strongest played character, both committed to the ham whilst still adhering to character. Lacking perhaps in space, the transitions between scenes could do with some work, but generally speaking, Nat Kennedy creates a coherent and consistent piece of work where each actor knows exactly what they are there for.
Where Holtom’s script fails is the botched climactic reveal, and the unnecessary dip into ‘preachy theatre land’. The former feels rushed and confused; the latter asking the audience (who, by the way, have chosen to come to the King’s Head Theatre on a Sunday as part of Queer Season) to dwell for a moment on the negative (underrepresentation of queer lives in the arts) they surely already know exists. Trust your audience to get the message without ramming it down their throats and let them enjoy seeing queer lives on stage rather than preaching that they do so.
All in all, this is a fabulous piece and a good bit of fun, as any good murder mystery should be, leaving this reviewer at least, guessing until the end.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Ali Wright
The Cluedo Club Killings
King’s Head Theatre