Homophobe, Kings Head Theatre, Islington, London
Performed by Tommy, The Queer Historian
Directed by Emily Greensdale
While the poster for Homophobe features the title next to a close-up of a man covered in bruises the show itself tackles the gritty issues of the associated image in a friendly, down-to-earth and sometimes blackly comical way.
Homophobe is Tommy’s story of the trouble he has faced from the outside world as a homosexual and his ways of dealing with it, sprouting from a homophobic attack by some school friends as a night out on his youth. From there he feeds us stories of how this affected him afterwards and the journey he took to find some closure talking to people in the community and his attackers, mainly trying to understand what makes a Homophobe.
Tommy tells his sorry to the audience with a quiet, determined honesty, feeling like everything is deeply personal but needs to be heard, giving it an important confessional quality. The performance is broken up by several talking head spots from people who know Tommy but also entertainers, all talking about gay culture and peoples attitudes around it, giving their own stories of how they have encountered and tackled Homophobia. This adds an added dimension showing that this is not just one man’s story but that of an entire culture. Homophobe manages to break the tension and alleviate the dark mood throughout with some dark humour and upbeat dance pieces. After the prologue Tommy performs a high energy, fun, disco dance number changing from a stock office like shirt tie and trousers to a glittery suit. He also performs some slightly grotesque yet fitting magic tricks during the show, such as swallowing razors while a montage of offensive individuals plays in the background.
Whilst Homophobe does a very good job of being both touching and thought provoking it felt very much a work in progress, with a stuttered structure that meant it was hard for the audience to grasp on to some of the story. This also felt like it rushed by a bit from attack to closure seeming only steps away from each other. It left me wanting to know more of Tommy’s story as he hints at how badly he has been affected by the attack, but instead we seem to jump to a conclusion.
The piece does very well at displaying the ongoing issues that have and are still faced by the LGBTQ community. From the start it is highlighted how even there are now fewer legal barriers people’s attitudes aren’t always in the same place. The story shows that views have changed and there has been progression but reminds that there is still challenges and even hatred faced by the community, telling us of his own recent encounters, some of the talking head spots talking about their issues and pointing towards homophobic events that have made news.
Homophobe presents as a personal journey through Tommy’s life and the obstacle he has faced, but by examining these he scratches under the surface showing the underlying problems in society showing that these problems are uniform in the LGBTQ community. Despite a few pacing issues the show will leave you feeling like you’ve been let into a special and honest story, giving you plenty to think about on the way home. An excellent show to open eyes on the shocking and offensive manner the LGBTQ are still treated in the modern world.
On at Kings Head Theatre until 22nd August. Booking.
© Daniel Ramsden – 2016 – @DanielRamsdenFL
Image © Matt Golowczynski