21:43 | 25th May 2019

Reviews: Film and Book reviews

Sun 2 Sep, 2018
By Robert Ingham

‘Next London’ is an assured piece that will resonate with many people, whether LGBT+ or otherwise.

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Next Lesson - theatre review

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Pay attention class, Next Lesson has started. Above The Stag’s studio theatre has been transformed into a classroom and you are enrolled into Beckenham High.

Spanning 17 years, it shows how Section 28 affected a wide range of people, from pupils to teachers and parents. Section 28 was a nasty piece of legislation brought in by Margaret Thatcher in 1986 which forbid homosexuality being promoted in schools in any shape or form.

It was eventually abolished in 2003, and one can only wonder how much further we would be along the LGBT+ journey if it had never been introduced.

And it is over those 17 years in which ‘New Lesson’ takes place. Told in short scenes, mostly two-handers, all set in Beckenham High, it gives perspectives from all different angles, starting with Michael (sensitively portrayed by Sam Goodchild) who comes out to his mum and, as the years tick by, becomes a teacher at the same school. This is really his story, the highs and lows of falling in love with someone of the same sex but having to keep it hidden through fear of persecution from his peers, and even the law.

It could be easy for a play with such subject matter to become maudlin but writer Chris Woodley has deftly woven a strong story, highlighting the issues the LGBT community faced with Section 28. And whilst there is heartache and anguish, it refreshingly stays true to its main theme.

The small cast take on three or four roles each, apart from Goodchild, and each character is clearly defined and three dimensional. Whilst it is difficult to single out favourites, Stephanie Willson, who brilliantly plays four very different characters including Michael’s mum, stands out, as does Florence Odumosu’s Chloe(?) who proves that kids can genuinely be more streetwise than adults.

A great production from director Andrew Beckett and the ATS crew, with a banging soundtrack - they should absolutely release that as an album. Whether the play evokes glorious memories of growing up or painful ones of love lost, ‘Next London’ is an assured piece that will resonate with many people, whether LGBT+ or otherwise.

Next Lesson runs to Sunday 16th September at the Above The Stag Theatre, 72 Albert Embankment SE1 7TP.

Photos by PBGStudios


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