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The Bus was a play about two boys’ small-town romance, where they have to battle against religious and cultural prejudice. Sounds like it’s been a done a million times before, doesn’t it? But actually the relationship between the two boys was involving, touching and superbly acted. 

 


Above the Stag is a fantastic little independent theatre and, alongside its more commercial endeavours, regularly takes risks on new works of LGBT writing. The Bus stems from American playwright and filmmaker James Lantz’ pen, who wanted to tackle the recent spate of gay teen suicides in the US.

The byline is ‘secret teenage love in the heart of America’s Bible Belt’, and Jordan (Kane John Scott) and Ian (William Ross-Fawcett), the two boys in question, meet most nights in the eponymous bus. The trouble is the derelict bus is owned by Ian’s divorced and fairly homophobic father, so they run a danger of their intimacy becoming public.

Evidently it does at some point and it’s all shit-hits-the-fan drama, as Ian’s dogmatically religious mother gets involved, hailing from ‘the church up the hill’ which has connotations with the much-universally detested Westboro Baptist Church.

Unfortunately, I found the social whirlwind surrounding the boys’ discovery the weakest part of the production. Perhaps because it was written explicitly to be socially didactic, it felt like it lacked emotional truth, and didn’t thoroughly engage the attention. The religious mother was not nearly nasty enough which I presume was the writer wanting to make her a realistic character – yet any member of the WBC is hardly a font of realistic sympathy.

But what salvaged this play from being a three star production was the tender beauty of the two boys’ romance. Ian’s angst-ridden paranoia about being found out, and what he might be, juxtaposed against Jordan’s suave, handsome and metrosexual charisma sparked onstage. It lent a human heart to the core of a play that deals with social issues, and made you care about the characters’ fate, which was the arrow upon which the story flew.

 

• Above the Stag, 17 Miles Street, Vauxhall, SE8 1RZ

• Playing until 22 November, 2014. 

www.abovethestag.com

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