After The Act Reviews

After the Act has opened at the New Diorama Theatre in London.

Reviews are coming in for this new musical, which is about Section 28 – twenty years after its repeal.

Section 28 was a British law in the late 1980s that banned ‘the promotion of homosexuality in schools and local authorities’.

The law inspired nothing less than a generational riot, from abseiling lesbians storming parliament and BBC newsrooms, to queers in classrooms and perverts panicking parents!

Theatre company Breach (It’s True, It’s True, It’s True) produce this new show which marks a turning point in LGBTQ+ British history, singing and dancing over the grave of this national anniversary!

The musical is written and directed by Billy Barrett with writer and performer Ellice Stevens.

After the Act plays at the New Diorama Theatre until 1 April 2023.

More reviews to follow


TimeOut
★★★★

"Messy but fantastically daring musical from Breach Theatre about the UK’s infamous Section 28 anti-gay law"

"Through verbatim testimony, Parliamentary transcripts, news reports and other materials from the time, these four performers tell the story of one of the most regressive, destructive and cruel pieces of legislation in this country’s recent history."

"It’s a bit messy, a bit imperfect, but its flaws are completely overwhelmed by all that’s good about the show."

"As well as bringing that era to life through music and montage, Breach seem to adopt the theatrical form of the ’80s too, the kind of scrappy, deeply political agitprop approach of pioneering companies like Gay Sweatshop."

"Not all the choreography is on point, nor the singing either. But that’s not really the aim here. It’s not trying to emulate the gloss of a West End show, and the odd bum note or uncoordinated dance is easy to excuse. Towards the end of the show, though, is a more serious problem: it seems to lose faith in its form and in its audience. It stops being a musical, and it suddenly becomes heavy-handed, laying on thickly the themes and ideas which were, until that point, all the more powerful for being implicit."

Tim Bano, TimeOut
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The Evening Standard
★★★

"Section 28 musical is engagingly scrappy and righteously angry"

"It reminds us that hard-won liberties can be summarily rolled back"

"This engagingly scrappy, righteously angry show marks 20 years since Section 28 of the UK Local Government Act... Setting personal testimonies, media reports and parliamentary statements to music it shows how ludicrous and lastingly pernicious this law was."

"Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett’s musical, which last night reopened the New Diorama Theatre after it went dark for six months, acknowledges how funny the recent past can seem."

"But alongside this is the tragedy and the damage. Here are stories of verbal, mental and physical abuse legitimised – wittingly or otherwise – by Margaret Thatcher’s government."

"A very brisk show is performed by a likeable, energetic cast of four in colour-coded suits and white trainers on a bare wood set."

"Admittedly, the overall vibe is a bit student-y, the acting strident and the choreography full of basic shoulder-dips and clenched-fist salutes. But kudos to the New Diorama, an increasingly influential player in London theatre, for commissioning and co-producing this show."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Stage
★★★★

"Heart-rending yet joyful"

"Breach’s latest show brilliantly conveys the hysteria and outrage of Section 28 in propulsive musical form"

"... in keeping with Breach’s previous work – such as It’s True, It’s True, It’s True – co-writers Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett have brilliantly shaped the words of real people into a high-energy, rock-operatic indictment of the media exploitation and politically motivated hysteria that produced Section 28, blighting the lives of LGBTQ+ people in the UK."

"Performed by a queer cast of four, all of whom grew up under Section 28, the show combines bombastic, sardonic set-pieces centred on the proponents of the legislation with heart-rending accounts of teachers and ex-students who still grapple with the guilt and shame of being tongue-tied in the classroom or forced into secret lives until it was repealed in the early 2000s."

"The talented cast neatly defines the differing roles they play."

Tom Wicker, The Stage
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What's On Stage
★★★

"Breach’s verbatim musical tackles Section 28"

"Mostly verbatim, an interviewee’s comments as well as photo exhibitions, featuring transgender and non-binary people as well as London Trans Pride, in the New Diorama’s foyer accompanying the show, allow Breach to be unequivocal in highlighting how the current fearmongering panic over trans people is the legacy of this hate."

"It’s particularly refreshing so long (the entire first act!) is spent on establishing how the bill came to pass..."

"Besides being one of the more engaging options of getting across a hell of a lot of information about Section 28, as a musical After the Act doesn’t seem otherwise aesthetically settled, or suited to its subject matter."

"It might not be the most assured musical on currently, but it’s a good testament to resistance, alive and kicking."

Frey Kwa Hawking, What's On Stage
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The Guardian
★★★★

"Thatcher’s section 28 stirs a fiery protest musical"

"Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett’s fizzing production traces the story of the Tories’ anti-gay legislation"

"This fizzing, fiery musical tells the story of that legislation and how its effect brought shame, secrecy, loneliness, trauma and abuse on those growing up gay under it."

"The moral panic about children, and the fear of their corruption or abuse, sits at the centre of the firestorm. Echoes with today’s debates around sexuality and gender reverberate. The show’s biggest emotional force is carried in individual verbatim accounts..."

"The cast of four, completed by Tika Mu’tamir, EM Williams and Zachary Willis, give wonderful performances, although their voices occasionally falter and the choreography (by Sung Im Her) dips to bagginess and repetition."

"Nevertheless, this musical feels exceptional. That it creates such a compelling narrative around a legal clause, and keeps us captive in enacting debates on its subclauses, is a massive achievement alone."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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📷 Main photo: After the Act. Photo by Alex Brenner

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