Playing for the other team…

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Emily Hill reviews “Scene of the Titans”, a new musical about a gay-friendly rugby team

Scene of the Titans” follows the true story of Northern Ireland’s first gay-friendly Rugby team, their formation and eventual triumph at the international gay-friendly tournament the Bingham Cup. Tim Foley, who wrote, directed and composed the music for the show, was inspired to tell this tale after his gap year in Belfast, where he met and joined the Ulster Titans. He describes their story as ‘too perfect, too heart-warming… too Disney’ to go untold and so embarked on the challenge of turning it into a musical. The production is bold in its exploration of some of today’s most controversial issues.

Naturally homosexuality in itself is a central theme, set against its religious and political receptions, not only in Northern Ireland but universally. Titan’s dispels the gay stereotypes by showing us the gay spectrum, if you will, from drag queen to soldier and thoroughly masculinising homosexuality. The direction and the music create a built in military theme, presenting the team’s struggle like a battle, not just for sporting success but for their rights, and march to victory.

The reception of homosexuality is also explored, particularly through the individual, Mr Winklebottom, played by Lang Haynes, a council member that refused to fund and tried to stop the team based on their sexuality. His ridiculous name is representative of his attitude, which is supposedly founded in his Christianity.

Now I know that some Christians left in protest after the number “My god is gay”. The scene is a negative portrayal of rigidly moralizing Christians, exposing diverse understandings of God; a transvestite tells us that his/her god is gay, and a saucy female Jesus shows up. Foley is upfront, deliberately presenting the issue controversially, even though in itself his view is not uncommon.

As a believer myself I was at first taken back, after all, “God is gay” is quite a statement. The point, however, is in the ‘my’. Jesus, wonderfully played (again) by Emily Muldoon, says that god is gay, straight, black or white, emphasising that he made us in his image, which means he made gay men as well as straight ones.

Not only did Foley create this masterpiece but he also cast it impeccably. There was not a single weak link amongst the actors, and they should all be incredibly proud. The band too were brilliantly put together, conducted by MD Adam Robbie. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” before the show to cover a technical difficulty, showing their skill and versatility before the performance had even begun.

Special mention should go to new-comer to the Mermaids scene, Luke Hier, playing the lead Terry, who is certainly one to look out for in the future. Also Ashton Montgomery, playing Cillian, took on the challenging transition from one of the liveliest to one of the most tragic characters in the show and Mark Gregory, playing Simon the camera man, once again intimidated us with his incredible voice. However, high heels were not needed to make Charlie Johnson, playing Sophia/Chris, the drag queen, stand out. His voice was spectacular and his performance overwhelming.

There was hardly a seat left in the house and the audience were not disappointed. I can confidently say that, though St Andrews saw it first, I wholly expect “Scene of the Titans”, like the team it was inspired by, to go all the way.

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