It’s a crash course in LGBTQIA culture, part forum, part confessional – that is, if you’re ready to share.
LGBTWho (presented by the charming Tee-Ball Ticket Theatre) is both a scripted work and a straightforward discussion, aiming to open the lines of communication around LBGTQIA experiences and issues. The format is fairly open; several topics are immediately presented on entry and we are asked to choose their order – followed by “confessions” from the cast (each one based on real survey responses). Preoccupied mostly with the experiences of youth – coming out, crushes, and first kisses taking center stage – to its credit it does avoid oversimplifying the LGBTQIA spectrum; explorations of heteronormativity, bi and asexuality expand the work’s function and credibility.
It’s a “safe space” where anything is up for discussion and nobody can judge, but this also proves to be a weakness. Overly reliant on audience participation, what starts as a request for volunteers quickly turns to pleading, prompting mostly nervous looks from the crowd (though i’m told the audience present on the night I visited was the least forthcoming of the current run). Luckily it’s not all talk – projected images, faux-drag contests, and overviews of gay history give plenty of room for creativity but never seem fully utilised and, combined with the whitewashed-office vibe of the location (Teneriffe’s Bright HQ) give the performance the airs of a instructional seminar, stiff and overlong; so often is the work tied up in remaining true to the source material that it forgets to engage and entertain. The focus on spoken word is clear, and props are otherwise minimal – cardboard cutouts used are charming but only add to the feeling of being stuck in a classroom.
I have to give credit where it’s due – the casts’ comedic and engaging performances are the work’s saving grace. Though played out in a sometimes juvenile fashion, they’re still greatly entertaining to watch and, considering the origin of the script, never mocking. The highlight – a powerful confessional scene from a transgender character, truly riveting, though events leading up to this moment are an awkward departure from the jovial mood of the show and feel over-planned.
Perhaps an important work for the young and impressionable (though at risk of being superseded by, say, google), holding some interest to the curious or those simply new to the LGBTQIA world – or else, anyone who has a good story to tell, a confession to get off their chest.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 17.