Birmingham School of Acting (BSA), part of Birmingham City University, is addressing gay preconceptions in a new theatre production where characters are scrutinised for being ‘straight’, in a society where everyone else is gay.
Devised and performed by Outspoken, a company of graduates and students from BSA’s Applied Performance course, ‘Heterophobia’ tells the story of Ryan, a 15 year-old heterosexual male who is trying to ‘come out’.
Tom Craig, who plays the role of Ryan and graduated from BSA in 2013, said “’Heterophobia’ is a really powerful piece as it makes you realise just how unfair sexuality prejudices are and the troubles that young people can feel are placed on them when expressing their sexuality.”
The theatrical performance, developed in collaboration with Birmingham Hippodrome, sees Ryan develop feelings for classmate Alice and is later exposed to cyber bullying when peers learn that Ryan is heterosexual and attracted to someone of the opposite sex.
The production follows on from the recent outrage and anti-gay climate at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and a report released earlier this year by Youth Chances warning that a generation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face a mental health crisis, with the neglect of LGBT issues by schools contributing to an environment of hostility of fear.
Hannah Phillips, Course Director of Applied Performance at BSA and Director of ‘Heterophobia’, said: “The findings from the Youth Chances survey were very concerning, revealing that more than half of young gay people have suffered mental health issues and 40% have considered suicide. The School Report by the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, revealed that homophobic bullying is still widespread in schools, with three in five young people who experience homophobic bullying saying that teachers who witness the bullying never intervene. The development of social media means that this bullying then continues online out of school hours.
“’Heterophobia’ is an urban musical which has been made to engage young people with these complex and sensitive issues and challenge normative stereotypes through spoken word, MC, dance and live video projection. ‘Heterophobia’ explores the ‘coming out’ of a heterosexual young male in a gay world, switching the roles of the oppressed and the oppressor!
“Getting audience members to view this situation from another angle may help them to understand the impact that this type of bullying can have on young people.”
‘Heterophobia’ incorporates interactive digital technology and a fusion of art forms – dance, drama, original songs, film and animation, performance poetry and spoken word, as well as providing a new model of audience participation by welcoming spectators to explore and engage with the stage and set before each performance begins.
Also featuring in ‘Heterophobia’ are two members of Antics Dance Crew, who appeared in Sky 1’s ‘Got to Dance’ and radio and television presenter Joanne Malin, who has recorded a mock news broadcast to be included in the production.
Performances take place at Birmingham Hippodrome on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 April, with tickets priced at £5. For more information and to book tickets, click here.
Approx. running 70 minutes running time.
Schools performances (aimed at Key Stages 3, 4 & 5): Thursday 3 April at 1.30pm and Friday 4 April at 10.30am.
Public performances: Thursday 3 and Friday 4 April at 7.15pm.