Upon entering the intimate space at Theatre 503, to experience Zak Zarafshan’s ‘The Boys Are Kissing’ I was comforted to be amongst a diverse audience, where different ethnicities, ages, genders, and sexualities were represented. A queering of the space, where the people occupying it are just being…
I was viscerally stimulated by the pre-show music: Black Box’s’ ‘Ride on Time’ and Todderick Hall anthems pulsating through the sound system. The set was like a camp dessert: pastel pink walls with a tropical floral design, punctuated by two green, huge pouffes, an upstage silky, orange curtain partition, a see-through vintage chandelier, books shelves adorned with ‘boys’ toys’, family photographs, and to complete the list – a serving of fairy cakes!
We are welcomed into the world by two very different couples – Chloe and Amira and Matt and Sarah. These are 30-somethings, buying into the escapist dream of suburbia: book clubs, a Volvo, yoga classes, a kitchen island and the ‘perfect child’. ‘
“Through razor-sharp wit and pathos, Zarafshan explores societal heteronormative rules and traditions set out for us, before birth, in order to protect us, to keep us safe from political and social ostracisation”
The couple’s 9-year-old boys are best friends and have committed the ‘ultimate sin’ of being witnessed kissing in the playground at their school.
Through razor-sharp wit and pathos, Zarafshan explores societal heteronormative rules and traditions set out for us, before birth, in order to protect us, to keep us safe from political and social ostracisation.
Chloe (earnest stay-at-home mother) and Amira (expectant IVF mother, lawyer, and activist) are parents to the much-loved Samir. While Matt (protective and anxious father) and Sarah (try-hard mother) are Lucas’s parents. Matt and Sarah fear the repercussions their child’s action may bring. If they don’t tow the heteronormative party line (at their local school, in their area and within society) will they be viewed as deviant and perverse?
The two couples have met to have ‘the conversation’ about a kiss between their sons. ‘The kiss’ was a ‘corroborative sighting by their peers’, resulting in a domino effect of parents signing a petition against the disintegration of ‘true’ family values, morals, and a queer agenda.
‘The Boys are Kissing’ explores the navigation of language – whether it be overtly polite or defamatory. Through well-crafted scenes, and uncomfortable conversations about homophobia, the play dramatises the political discourse surrounding the well-used adage ‘ It’s about the children’.
The actors are very well cast – impactful, dynamic, and the embodiment of comic timing. A big shout out to Shane Convery who plays Cherub 1, Alice, their committed and engaging characterisation throughout the play is a delight for the senses.
Cherub1 and Cherub 2, (Clitorious) are celestial beings guiding the narrative and moral consciousness of the play. The two beings break the fourth wall, (sometimes literally), and present a camp, irreverent and necessary part of an important play.
Gender and sexuality are brought into question after ‘the kiss’ occurs. Amira donates books about diversity and inclusion to Samir’s school. Which in turn is challenged /demonised by Louise, a ‘ concerned parent’ and self-appointed Mary Whitehouse / Margaret Thatcher wannabe. She deems the books as ‘ an addition to an ‘unorthodox curriculum’.
The cherubs import knowledge, appearing to the couples as manifestations of Matt’s intolerant Dad, Amira’s exacting Mother, Chloe’s empowering yogic guide and Sarah’s nemesis in designer sunglasses – Louise.
Through purposeful wordplay, the Cherubs ask the audience to question progressive and traditional ideologies, notions of desire and pragmatism, issues based on expectations and wish fulfilment ideals.
Kudos to the actors, director, and creative team as they have produced a piece of art which not only entertains but is political, change’s opinion and aids awareness
The second half of the play is both poignant and confessional, it shows the cost of bringing children into the world; the hope and dreams of said children, and the reality of pressurised parents wanting to show their children how to navigate an ‘unsafe and relentless world’.
Sarah delivers an important message and antidote to our impulsive cancel culture; she calls for patience and room for growth – as ideologies change and develop, language shifts and evolves and identities become more open.
Kudos to the actors, director (Lisa Spirling), and creative team as they have produced a piece of art which not only entertains but is political, changes opinion and aids awareness.
‘The Boys Are Kissing’ is a must-see!