REVIEW: Outings (Oxford Playhouse)

Outings

Seabright Productions

Written by Matthew Baldwin and Thomas Hescott

Directed by David Grindley

****

I had a friend who was at drama school, and a tutor once set them the homework of going home and coming-out to their parents – whatever sexuality they identified as.  She sat her parents down, told them she had something to tell them and then came out as straight.  From what I remember of the story they thought it was some weird joke – and of course they thought she was going to tell them she was gay.  I considered that this was, as far as they go, an interesting and vaguely worthwhile exercise, my friend certainly said it allowed her to empathise with what coming out may feel like – of course, it varies for each individual.  But if you identify as straight, coming out isn’t one of those things you ever have to think about, whereas  if you identify as LGBT+ you have to come out time and time again, almost every day, and sometimes it does weigh on your mind a little, or a lot.

Outings, written by Matthew Baldwyn and Thomas Hescott, is a heart-touching collection of coming out stories, some punchy one liners, others longer, featuring several characters.  The stories were all collected via a campaign in order to create the piece, and performed by actors Andrew Doyle, Dave Benson, Caroline Lennon and Camille Jade Ucan, who all brought a skilled range of characters and accents to lift the stories from the page.  A few were quite hilarious: the teenage boy whose mum didn’t have an aggressive enough response to his coming out for his liking or the girl that ran downstairs to her parents with ‘I’m Gay’ scrawled on a piece of paper.  Some documented horrific accounts of homophobia and abuse, examples of conversion therapy and physical violence.  Some touched on the lighter, but by no means less important incidences of homophobia, whether it be a ‘That’s SO gay’ in the playground, or a list of the ridiculous questions straight identifying people ask to their LGBT friends.  A particularly resonating story was told by actor Dave Benson – the story of a primary school teacher coming out to his pupils, who of course were unperturbed by it, as children often will be.  It was some of the adults that it was inappropriate for children so young to know about his male partner.  I work in schools a lot myself, and through my own experiences, know that many teachers struggle with the decision to come out to pupils for various reasons, it’s certainly a conversation that needs to be kept open; teachers being out to their students is a vital step on the journey to equality, I was glad Outings featured this story and the teacher played by Benson sounded like a perfect role model for the next generation.

It was a relaxed, script-in-hand performance, but was well rehearsed and well-structured in terms of which stories came where in the evening, at times it became uncomfortable, at others jovial – it was pleasing to hear the positive coming out stories, as the negative ones so often overshadow them elsewhere in the media. It’s important to note that it’s not all doom and gloom – humankind can often be accepting and warm in any place, anywhere, celebrating that feels important.  The conclusion wasn’t met by rapturous applause, but ended on a hopeful note, and I feel that the audience were reflecting as the curtain call arrived, not able to pull themselves away from the final story in time to whoop and cheer.

Outings is a simple, yet powerful idea , and in a way seems sort of bizarre that work like this still needs to happen, but it does, as Ruth Hunt said last year – “Lot’s done, lot’s to do!”  And it was encouraging and inspiring to see Outings on stage – ‘doing’.

There is one more performance of Outings scheduled for 12th April in Ipswich.  We’d recommend catching it if you’re nearby.  Details: http://www.outingstheshow.com/

(C) Amie Taylor 2015 (@spoonsparkle)

Amie is a writer and actor living in London.  She writes blogs, articles, plays, short stories and too many Facebook statuses.  She is especially keen to explore and write about gender and LGBT stereotypes, sexuality and gender inequality, but can abso be found writing abut more light-hearted stuff at auntiespudge.wordpress.com

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