• Amy Toledano

Dumbledore Is So Gay presented by Robert Holtom & Tom Wright

What Is It?

Dumbledore Is So Gay is a contemporary coming-of-age drama for the noughties. This is the first collaboration between writer Robert Holtom and director Tom Wright.

What Is It About?

Jack’s got a lot on his plate. He hates French, the official online quiz put him in Hufflepuff, and he’s in love with his best friend Ollie. Will his Time Turner help him time travel his way to a happy ending?

How Did It Make Me Feel?

I didn’t expect to be this moved. Though it is on the surface framed as your standard coming-of-age/coming-out story—the bullies, the heartache, the name-calling, dealing with family—it turns out to be more than that. It’s an exploration of grief and the importance of fighting for our rights and communities, even if it can sometimes feel hopeless as an individual. It also powerfully celebrates the work that has been done by activists to this point; ordinary people living up the road that manage to make a difference without anyone noticing. There are shout-outs to existing LGBTQ+ venues around London and their importance, especially to young people trying to find somewhere they can be safe. It shows us how far we’ve come, even since 2007, and how much more there is still to be done.

That said, the play keeps a hopeful, light-hearted tone even through the sad moments, of which there are quite a few. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The friendships between the characters are convincing and touching. Time travel being an element, it speaks to the strength of Holtom’s script that the repetition of certain scenes and dialogue adds insight to the story as a whole. Wright’s direction is effective and clear, making the most of a multi-rolling cast that thrives in the rapid-fire exchanges, scene transitions, and comic delivery the script demands. In this regard, Charlotte Dowding in the role of Gemma (who is definitely not the Hermione of the group…) is fantastic. Take note of one conversation between two characters, both played by Dowding.

The magic realism of Jack’s Time Turner is never explained—do the do-overs ‘stick’? Does the whole play presume they are in fact actual muggles in the Wizarding World, who consume media about Harry Potter, and could conceivably get their hands on controlled magical instruments? Is it all in Jack’s head? It’s fun to wonder, but it’s well-executed enough and is introduced with enough charm as to not matter. After all, to paraphrase a great, late wizard who could have just as easily been dropping some theatre meta, just because it’s happening in our heads does not mean it’s any less real…

Knowledge of Harry Potter and its fandom is not required, though there are plenty of excellent references to it, for those so inclined, as well as fun-to-catch parallels between the Wizarding World and the world and characters of the play. It also captures the issues surrounding LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream fiction well—for example, Dumbledore being the only out gay character, and ending up dead well before the final battle. A very real moment is when Jack remembers the date, time and what he was doing when it was announced that Dumbledore is gay, as culturally that was a hopeful moment in representation, even if it was after the books were complete. I would only nitpick at one thing: at one point, Jack says, as an aside, “Sorry, JK.” Don’t be sorry, Jack.

Anything Else?

Peter Wilson’s sound design is strong and cleverly signposts the action throughout. If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher is the ultimate background song for a curtain call.

Overall, a successful collaboration between Holtom and Wright. I hope to see more from this team in future.

Arden x

Dumbledore Is So Gay is playing in the Network Theatre, VAULT Festival until Sunday 1st March 2020.

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