DramaLGBTQLondonReviewVAULT Festival

Dumbledore Is So Gay – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Robert Holtom

Director: Tom Wright

A quick Harry Potter lesson: Dumbledore, played by Richard Harris and then Michael Gambon in the films, is gay, and while this may have been a ‘woke’ decision by JK Rowling, she perhaps undermined her progressive move by killing him off. In Robert Holtom’s new play we can see how easy it is for gay men to interiorise tragic endings.

This may sound as if Dumbledore Is So Gay is sombre and earnest, but instead it is a sparkling coming-of-age comedy featuring a trio of actors at the top of their game. Harry Potter fanatic Jack grows up in a homophobic environment: ‘gay’ is the constant insult at school while at home his parents turn off the TV when Graham Norton is on.

Jack is love with his best friend Ollie, and he can’t quite work out if the love is reciprocated, even when they steal a quick kiss after school. But it seems that they have no future together and after a disastrous affair with his other best friend Gemma, Jack takes the Megabus up to London. He finds a safe haven in Heaven where men are unashamed of their sexuality. But this utopia proves to be hollow when, one morning on his return from Heaven, his mother gives him bad news.

But like Harry Potter, Jack has a Time Turner and so he goes back to his childhood to right all the wrongs in order to avert the tragic ending. Will he get it right next time? This narrative is, of course, familiar from films such as It’s A Wonderful Life and Sliding Doors, but never has it been so funny. Holtom’s script is packed full of jokes and full of incidents , and director Tom Wright keeps the action swift and on its toes.

It’s a credit to the actors that they deal with the speed easily, and as our hero Alex Britt never puts a foot wrong and we get behind him from the start. Max Percy and Charlotte Dowding (who is fresh from her role in Splintered) play a host of other characters, sometimes switching between them in a blink of an eye. Percy is excellent as the awkward Ollie while Dowding has superb comic timing, shaking her head and raising her eyebrow when she realises that she has to play two characters at once.

Throughout is Peter Wilson’s jolly Harry Potteresque music that sets the scenes nicely, and the stage is empty apart from three movable boxes. But the best thing about the play is you never know where it’s going, and it could easily be adapted to a longer running time. However, it doesn’t need any fancy sets or special effects as Holtom’s writing and the energetic cast make enough magic for everyone.

Runs until 1 March 2020

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