SECTION 28: THE LEGACY OF A HOMOPHOBIC LAW
theSpace on the Mile (V39)
August 19th to 24th 20.20
⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)
This is a show brought to us by Ray Stafford and Andrew Lake. They take on an issue about which they are right to feel indignant and angry, a piece of government legislation that did much harm to teachers and local government workers, and to young people growing up in Britain, the very people those in power said they were wanting to protect.
Stafford and Lake bravely take on a large number of parts, from media interviewer and government representative to father, vicar and teacher. David is a schoolboy struggling to hide his sexuality. Comments are made about him at school, and there is a problem with things written on the school toilet walls. Also, David’s English teacher has had boys reading girls’ parts in class, including having David read the part of Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Questions are asked, and all this in the atmosphere created by the new legislation prohibiting local authorities from promoting homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. David and his teacher are unlucky in that their school seems to be one that is enthusiastic in its response to the new legislation, and eager to interpret it as damagingly as possible. No-one was ever convicted under section 28, but it created a climate of fear which undermined, amongst other things, the ability of gay teachers and pupils to freely exchange ideas and advice.
We see David trying to find advice and support. His vicar clearly has his own angle, and through him the issue of conversion therapy is raised – a very vicious method still widely used in the States. His teacher becomes almost hostile out of fear. It is very difficult for him to express himself to his father. In this situation it is possible to imagine David going downhill disastrously.
Ray Stafford and Andrew Lake present this situation clearly and in a way that is easy to grasp. Their presentation of a dehumanising environment where the support and flourishing of the student should be the first concern is admirable. The intervention of certain voices of today may jar, but this serves to remind us that prejudice is by no means dead and buried.
This show is worth catching to learn about a villainy of the past, or to be reminded of how easily things can be put into reverse.