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The Act – Ovalhouse, London

Writer: Thomas Hescott, Matthew Baldwin

Director: Thomas Hescott

Reviewer: Christopher Hong


TheAct_OvalhouseThe Act refers to the Act of Parliament legalising homosexual activities betweentwo men in private. It also refers to this solo performance by Matthew Baldwin and no doubt sex itself. Set in front of a large scroll of paper filled with illustrations of a variety of nudes, gay icons and portraitures drawn by Gavin Dobson, this show intersperses storytelling, cabaret songs and verbatim speeches from the House of Commons leading up to the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

In terms of content, the Commons’ speeches are excerpts from the debate addressing the Wolfenden Reports findings and other concerns for and against the passing of the Act. It summarises rather elegantly the issue at hand, supporting each point with evidence.The story section tells the love life of a civil servant Matthew in the 60s before legalisation legalising homosexual acts, from his childhood encounters and crushes to his affair with a young man he met in a public toilet. The affair is told through a series of letters addressed to the object of his affection which gives a novel perspective to the relationship. And the story eventually ties in with the parliamentary debate where Matthew gives his opinion on the state of the law from a personal point of view by those affected by the law. Though the story is occasionally witty, it lacks drama and works merely as a series of forgettable anecdotes.

Among the speeches and tales of Matthew’s love life are some amusing cabaret style songs, one example of which is Danny Boy with the lyrics changed from D of Danny to an F. It may not be the greatest of songs, but it does nicely show off Baldwin’s voice. Together with the acting, this show works well as a vehicle showcasing Baldwin’s range and talent. Baldwin demonstrates the required gravitas for the speeches from the House of Commons while suitably capturing the most effeminate of long-term gay bar residents.

Despite the flaws while being somewhat disjointed, the show serves well as a summariser of the life before, and through the legalisation of homosexual acts and features a rather pleasant and charming performance from Baldwin.

Runs until 26th October

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