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Digital Subscriptions > DIVA Magazine > December 2016 > Looking back at The Boys...

Looking back at The Boys...

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I’m passionate about theatre. This month I saw The Boys In The Band, at the small-butperfectly-formed Park Theatre in north London. The production had good reviews, but some described the play as dated. It is of its time, without a doubt, but I would argue that it’s an important part of LGBT cultural history, a story which deserves retelling. It premiered in New York in 1968, the year before the Stonewall riots, and was groundbreaking in putting the life of gay people (all men, admittedly) centre-stage, for a mainstream audience. At its heart is the story of Michael, a Catholic with a love of Judy Garland who’s throwing a birthday party for a friend. The party is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Alan, who was Michael’s roommate at university; Alan is attractive, apparently heterosexual and unaware of his old friend’s sexuality. There are some terrifically funny moments as the alcohol flows, but homophobia, bitchiness and heartbreak come to the fore as even more is consumed – and I’d be lying if I said there’s an upbeat ending. Yet for all the talk of the play being old-fashioned, it was the racism I found most shocking: the only black man at the party, Bernard, has developed a tough skin, and lets casual racist comments wash over him. I was less surprised by the depiction of gay self-loathing, even though this is cited as a theme that dates the play. There’s a lot, for sure; here’s a generation still struggling with being other, and craving social acceptance. But don’t we still see this today? I hope and believe not to this extent, but we probably all know men and women who battle internalised homophobia – sometimes because of a religious upbringing, like party host Michael, but not always. I’ve spoken many times about coming out late in life; the reasons are numerous and complex, as they are for many of us. And when I beat myself up about having made so many mistakes during what are said to be the best years of your life (one of my least appealing traits, says my wife Sara!), a play, a novel or a song can remind me that I’m not alone. For people of my generation – I was born the month of the Stonewall raid – The Boys In The Band reminds us of two important things: that society has changed for the better, particularly in terms of legislation, but that there are still barriers to full acceptance, and the last thing we should do is erect them around ourselves.

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About DIVA Magazine

We’re thrilled to have YouTube stars Rose and Rosie on our cover once again! Find out what they’ve been up to since we last spoke and enjoy digital extras including an exclusive behind the scenes video from our cover shoot and bonus images. Also in this issue… Bad Girls: Roxy Bourdillon meets the cast of the ITV drama and finds out why we still hold a candle for Larkhall 10 years on Magda Szubanski: Why we love the Kath and Kim star Comedian Jayde Adams: “DIVA outed me to my family” Vicky Beeching on making the Yuletide gay Heather Peace: Why it’s cool to be kind Phyll Opoku-Gyimah asks “Where’s our humanity?” Holidays are coming: Yule love our Christmas gift guide! PLUS: Travel, fashion, family and much, much more!
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