HETEROPHOBIA till 04 04 14

Alexander Ray Edser looks at a new company in Birmingham, launching a new show about sexuality.

HETEROPHOBIA: An Urban Musical: Devised and directed: Hannah Phillips
Music and Lyrics: Nik Haley
Hippodrome Theatre (Patrick Studio) 3 and 4 April
Runs: 1h no interval

Feature: Alexander Ray Edser, performance seen 03 04 14

New company, new show, passionate new way of looking at the world.
So Outspoken are presenting a new urban musical for young people, HETEROPHOBIA that explores issues of homophobia. You may ask: ‘What do we need it for? There’s been a sea-change in the UK – we even have gay marriages.’

But let’s look at a few facts . . . A recent Youth Chances survey reveals that more than half young gay people have suffered mental heath issues, more than three quarters have suffered from homophobic bullying. Worse, a recent Stonewall report shows that three out of five young people who have suffered homophobic bullying say that teachers did nothing about it. Shocking. So I’d say Outspoken’s urban musical is timely.

And gay marriages. Fair enough. But, we may note, religious groups are exempt from having to perform them. Because it’s an issue of belief or conscience. Being comfortable and respected in your own sexuality isn’t an issue of conscience – it’s life, it’s love, it’s well-being. What chance does a gay young man or woman stand in a religion based school? While religious conservatives are enabled to continue peddling their inhumane views? So I’d say Outspoken’s urban musical is very timely indeed.

HETEROPHOBIA is the brain child of Hannah Phillips, leader of the Applied Performance degree at Birmingham School of Acting. Phillips, something of a creative entrepreneur, has developed the company from recent graduates and present students. Birmingham City University, equally innovative, has funded the project. This present production, based in the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio, also exemplifies the creative working relationship between the Hippodrome and BCU. A Birmingham good-news story.

In order to explore the theme in the musical, there is a clever conceit at the centre. Namely, teenager Ryan, finds himself ‘outed’ – living in a gay world, he’s been snapped kissing a girl (‘Yuk’ groans the girl who takes the pic). This subverting of our present society enables the theme to be explored in a way that frees the young audiences up. It also gives rise to some unexpected, ever present, and welcome humour. Most notable in the scene in which Ryan’s hapless (or do I mean hopeless?) teacher tries to help. But in case it all becomes too frivolous, two commentators give us some real, impassioned, LGBT experiences.

With lively music and lyrics (Nik Haley) the show is engaging and challenging. The opening song, IT’S A GAY WORLD, get’s us right in the mood. So does the rapped: ‘If you’re not homo / That’s a no go.’ And with Tom Craig’s vulnerable Ryan at its centre it is also truly moving. The play is left open-ended; so much food for thought as we leave.

This is an incredibly important work for young people; while it avoids the trap of being earnest, it is the company’s honest passion, their knowledge that they are doing something important, and their skill that makes this memorable.

[Credits to follow.]

2014-04-03 17:37:08

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