This amusing and surprisingly moving play makes its UK début in Vauxhall’s cosy Above The Stag Theatre.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Southern Baptist Sissies is a coming-of-age story following the lives of four boys growing up gay in a deeply religious community in Dallas, Texas. Written by Del Shores – who has also written for the US adaptation of Queer as Folk – it explores how the four characters come to terms with their sexuality in a town where the locals believe being gay is just a deviant thought can be cured through prayer.
It’s a story that’s likely to resonate with anyone from the LGBT+ community who was raised religious, or even grew up in a conservative area. It touches on some major topics, such as how a religion, which claims to be inclusive and loving, can so often alienate and harm those who don’t fit its ideals. The story examines how different people handle their sexuality, with one character, after a brief fling, diving straight back in the closet to live a ‘conventional’ life; while another, as his drag alter ego, embraces the local gay scene with open arms.
The narrative – which generally occurs in and around the local Baptist Church – is interspersed with scenes of two older characters reminiscing and making small talk over numerous drinks. They deliver many of the show’s most amusing gags and also a more mature perspective on gay life – with the notion that outgrowing the uncertainties of adolescence doesn’t guarantee any certainties in the future.
It’s not a perfect performance – there are a few line wobbles and hesitations in the opening minutes, with a couple of the performers taking a scene or two to find their stride; while most of the singing was solid, there were several missed notes; and some of the acting was slightly over-the-top for such an intimate space – a few moments would have benefited from being reigned in. For those new to this particular theatre, the train noise does take some getting used to, too.
However, these are all fairly minor niggles and, for the most part, Southern Baptist Sissies is a resounding success. The acting is generally strong and it’s a well-observed piece of writing, entertaining and moving in equal measure. Well worth checking out.
GT gives Southern Baptist Sissies at Above The Stag – 4/5
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