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Section 28: The Legacy of a Homophobic Law

Andrew Lake and Ray Stafford
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The notorious Section 28 of the UK's Local Government Act 1988 outlawed “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".

Schools felt awkward about even acknowledging the existence of homosexuality and teachers became cautious about the way they could council students who approached them for advice. It also meant that any prejudice against gay people expressed by children was less likely to be challenged.

The play Section 28 The Legacy of a Homophobic Law set in the late 1980s explores this through a focus on the character of David (Andrew Lake), a student who is becoming aware of same-sex attraction in an environment that is fairly hostile to gays. There is the stupid banter of other students and the religious warnings of a clergyman.

Feeling fairly isolated, he decides to speak to the English teacher Mr. Fanshaw (Ray Stafford), who has his own difficulties with pastoral Head Gavin Marsh who thinks Fanshaw is too risky in his teaching.

Marsh insists the school avoid anything that might imply recognition or acceptance of homosexuality, so when graffiti appears in the toilets connecting the names of David and his English teacher Fanshaw, Marsh launches an investigation into Fanshaw rather than rooting out the bullies.

This fluent, confident performance is always engaging, its characters believable, the issues it raises important.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna