“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.
“a very watchable piece of theatre that is intimate in exploring its far-reaching topics”
Three months into their relationship, Bradley and Lex are ready to christen it. However, there’s more than just first-time jitters getting in the way. Romance, intimacy and identity cook from the inside out in Tom Wright’s well-written comedy about our baggage in the bedroom. Not to give too much away but the storytelling is full of treats. Even though there aren’t any twists per se, every plot point, from whose bedroom we’re in to whose life’s at threat are threaded subtlety into Bradley and Lex’s back-and-forth.
Lex and Bradley, at times, evoke the same affection you have towards Louis and Prior’s in Kushner’s Angels in America, and I do not say that lightly. Both pairs, are intelligent gay men who know all too well the strains and threats on their community but are in disagreement on how, or if, they should take arms against the issues. And like Angels, Undetectable is unmistakably made for the stage.
Wright leavens the conflicted morals of his play through some very funny dialogue. Whilst shrewd and well observed, this showed his skill at turning phrases and pacing punchlines, more than it did his strength at giving unique voices to his characters. Perhaps it wasn’t his aim, because his choices ultimately work to the play’s credit; helped in no small part by two towering performances from Lewis Brown and Freddie Hogan.
Director Rikki Beadle-Blair MBE and the players have brought to life a vivid tapestry of labels, masks and brave-faces. The moments of roleplay between the lovers are utterly enthralling to watch exploring the theatre in lovemaking itself, through a play-within-a-play dynamic that all at once amuses and, quite frankly, creeps you out (especially during a teacher-student fantasy). Brown and Hogan take on their parts with nerves of steel, not once missing a beat in a physically gruelling and exposing performance.
In a play like this, a pinhole in any of these elements sinks the ship completely. And whilst there aren’t any holes in Undetectable, there are a few open windows. There’s a distinct lack of stakes between Lex and Bradley. Once the roles are established, the play spins out entirely predictably. A switch in style in the final third was welcomed, and well executed, but didn’t shift from the fact that despite many threats of walk-outs, we knew it would be happily ever after. Perhaps it’s because certain emotional junctures aren’t given space to breathe. At one point Bradley emotively talks about what the spectre of a positive HIV diagnosis can do to the mind, in one of the play’s finest moments, but is undercut by Lex talking about his drug uses. Moments like these were rushed and could have done with more unpacking. A little quiet would have gone a long way.
Despite this, Wright has created a wonderful romantic relationship and Beadle-Blair has crafted a very watchable piece of theatre that is intimate in exploring its far-reaching topics.