11:39 | 19th February 2019

Reviews: Live Shows

Wed 15 Mar, 2017
By Robert Ingham

A strong, smart play from beginning to end... Do what you can to catch a ticket

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Above The Stag in Vauxhall have excelled themselves with the excellent ‘Southern Baptist Sissies’, a story about four boys growing up in a close-minded community. It follows them from the age of eight into adulthood and, for a relatively small cast, this is a big achievement.

Director Gene David Kirk and set designer David Shields have evidently worked hard to recreate an evocative and captivating arena where the audience are sucked into the trials and tribulations of growing older, but not always being gay, in the confines of the Southern Baptist religion. With a stage split into three sets – a bar, a church and a home – the strength of the direction and lighting means your focus stays where it needs to be.

Rather than rebuking religion as a whole, writer Del Shores speaks from the heart, pulling on his personal experiences of being in a family with a Southern Baptist background, and the result is incredibly humorous and heart-breaking in equal measures.

From the moment the Preacher (a great turn by Stephen Parker) brings his congregation to its knees in prayer, a compelling and, at times, disturbing narrative unfolds. The performance takes the audience on a gripping, rollercoaster journey through the full spectrum of human emotion, before reaching its shattering conclusion.

The cast is outstanding, with Jason Kirk (impressively making his professional acting debut), Hugh O’Donnell, Daniel Klemens and James Phoon playing the titular sissies. Each “sissy” has their moments to shine – and shine they do. Beautifully. Janet Prince is excellent playing all the mothers – you forget they’re all played by just one woman. And whilst there is much humour throughout, there is some much needed, fiercely comical relief from Odette (Julie Ross) and Preston (Don Cotter), who sit at the bar and talk about the mature side of life, albeit immaturely.

There is not one weak link in this must-see play. Powerful and impactful, emotive and stirring, it will affect you the way it should, reminding us there is still so much more to do in the LGBT sphere, and the journey in educating people who have such narrow views is far from over. And whilst some of the lines feel they're from the 1950s, they are still relevant in today's society and hold a mirror up to the prejudices and intolerance happening all over the world.

A strong, smart play from beginning to end – the cast and crew should be immensely proud, and ‘Southern Baptist Sissies’ deserves a sell-out season. Do what you can to catch a ticket. Take tissues.

‘Southern Baptist Sissies’ is on at Above The Stag theatre until 9th April.

Photos: PGBstudios


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