THE B IN THE ROOM Two stars
Paradise in the Vault (venue 29) 21.10
August 4th to 11th
In this production from the UCL Runaround Theatre company, written by Joey Jepps, the B in the room is bisexuality. This is a subject often underrepresented in the media generally and in public discussion. The number of people identifying as bisexual as grown in recent years, and my own experience would suggest to me that bisexuals are still likely to be discreet and to keep their sexuality almost secret.
Hence I was looking forward to this production and to what it revealed about the bisexual situation. We have two characters, Dana, 39 and very independent and questioning, and Elliot, a teenager who is very religious and who is made very unhappy by the conflict between his obsessive belief and his desires, which he can barely admit to himself. Elliot is fond of quoting to himself those texts in the Old Testament that condemn men having sex with men. Dana is happy to play with sex toys and view porn.
Much of the set is the bed they share, but Elliot spends much of the time at a desk beside that, with his phone and Bible. Although we see one scene where they are in bed together and Elliot wakes up with a nightmare, there is at no point any sense given that there is any intimate or sexual feeling between these two. They make an odd couple and it is difficult to think what might attract the one to the other. One piece of pre-publicity had me wondering if they might be brother and sister.
Both become more and more taken with the idea of same sex activity, but by different paths. For a time, I thought I was watching yet another coming out drama, but here with two contrasting characters. However, the real problem was that I could not see how a bisexual relationship was being presented here. There seemed to be not the slightest spark between the two – they might have been sharing the room because it was their only alternative to the streets.
This lack of emotional relationship between these two people just about robs the play of a bisexual dimension. Bisexuals also have feelings. They have real, deep relationships with both men and women. That I am saying this shows my frustration and disappointment with this play.
The B in the room is obviously like the elephant in the room. But the elephant is the unspoken thing that no-one can be unaware of. Here I was hoping against hope that the elephant would walk in.