The Donmar Warehouse (London) Until 5th Dec
If we want equality then we have to negotiate the structure of privilege: money, inﬂuence, belonging and beauty. This play called to mind John Grant’s memories of coming out.
‘If you’re beautiful and you have the right genes, then the gay scene is a place where you can be worshipped. But if you don’t, it’s a different ball of wax. I sort of have a lot of anger around that because coming out was tough enough, dealing with the people that hated you because you were gay… to then go into the gay scene and realise that it’s even worse there, that was, well, f*cked.”
John Grant, The Guardian May 24th, 2014
There’s something very Aaron Sorkin about this play, perhaps it’s the preppy young geniuses working hard at University to construct their future careers in politics, perhaps it’s just the preppy-ness. It’s just this which highlights Teddy Ferrara’s outsider status, he’s not the cleaned up golden boy who’s gay but has overcome that by being wealthy, handsome and intelligent or one of the three. Teddy Ferrara is a dumpy, grungy young man with an out of control awkwardness which erupts in a voice which seems to have been produced by a torn and rusty squeezebox, care of canker sores.
Gabe the preppy young golden boy who runs the queer society and all the politically liberal, but personally conservative characters who come from safe backgrounds are outwardly accepting of Teddy but in private company call out his freakishness. This could be a central theme to this complex play; the idea that whatever we are compelled to say or think in a public sphere will ultimately be undermined by what we say in conﬁdence. The president of the University is a prime example of this type of character who says much in conﬁdence but then when speaking in public engages purely in bumbled platitudes.
This play seems to deal with a lot of internalised homophobia and the need for normativity in order to gain acceptance, the idea that there will always be outsiders in order to make us feel safe on the inside. In that sense it speaks a lot about entitlement and an old boys network as the President of the University is hoping to run for Senate and Gabe the golden boy is a shoe in to get a job working on his campaign.
It’s an intricate web of ideas and, though I don’t know if one clear dominant theme comes through, it does deal with these complex ideas in a clever way. The thing about structural inequality is that once you start to shift the status quo, we lose clear reference points. People’s various reactions to Teddy Ferrera’s suicide lay bare where they are in their personal morality and perhaps this is the point. Political correctness at an institutional level seems to silence people, to take away minority voices along with everybody else’s. A prescribed morality only ever leads to a paranoid society unable to articulate it’s feelings properly. In the end we are left with the unsatisfying platitudes of a memorial service, where the people who found this person ‘a freak’ in real life, enforce a public martyrdom and a post-suicide heroism.
©John Fitzpatrick 2015