entertainment

'Next Lesson' examines the legacy of Section 28 at London's Above the Stag Theatre - review

"A great reminder of how fear and oppression can cause untold damage."

2018-09-06

Section 28 was one of the most hateful pieces of legislation brought in by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s.

It banned local authorities from discussing homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality within schools or promoting homosexuality as ‘a pretend family relationship’. This led to confusion, fear and caution and deprived vulnerable students of the right to a proper sex education.

Next Lesson by Chris Woodley looks at the knock-on effects of this legislation in the same school between 1988 and 2006. It’s funny, moving and heartwarming stuff.

We follow schoolboy Michael, all awkwardness and teenage silence, through the years until he becomes a teacher himself at the same school. Along the way we meet a host of other characters, both pupils and teachers, who are all dealing with their own sexual feelings.

 

All actors play multiple roles which at times can be confusing, however the acting is excellent, detailed and expressive and a pleasure to watch.

Sam Goodchild as Michael gives a sensitive portrayal of someone determined to live life by their own rules. Rejected by his parents upon coming out, it is a journey that takes in both the joyful highs of love and companionship to the devastating lows of grief and rejection. His final scene with the full cast is a highlight and incredibly moving.

Stephanie Wilson does a great job making her roles fully rounded and clearly distinct. As Michael’s mother, her pain and anguish upon her son’s coming out is handled with great care. It will certainly ring true for many who have had to have this conversation.

Florence Odumosu is in danger of stealing the entire show in her scene as Chloe, a mouthy and brash teenage girl who leaps to the defence of her favourite teacher. It is hilarious and Odumosu clearly finds the joy in her character’s naughtiness.

Daniel Forrester is excellent in his roles and has enormous fun giving us a thrill with his killer legs in tiny shorts. Samuel Lawrence rounds off a strong cast with thoughtful and subtle performances as both teacher and pupil.

Section 28 was repealed in 2003 and not before time. This excellent play is a great reminder of how fear and oppression can cause untold damage amongst vulnerable teenagers and that with love, honesty and unity we can overcome the curveballs life throws at us.

Rating: 4/5

Next Lesson plays at London's Above The Stag Theatre until 16 September. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.

Words: Matthew Hyde