How I Learned To Time Travel

It’s time to make magic again! Dumbledore Is So Gay is available on demand until 17th October. With five stars from Boyz Magazine and the Daily Express, this isn’t one to miss! “A beautiful coming-of-age story for a Harry Potter generation” said Mugglenet.

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In this post I want to discuss one element of the plot (spoilers), namely, time travel. At the end of Act 1 the play’s protagonist, Jack, whips out his Time Turner and zooms back from age 18 to 12 to live his adolescence again. It’s an idea that chimed with audiences; that desire to go back and make things better. Second time around Jack does get some of what he wants but it wouldn’t be theatre if there weren’t plenty of surprises. He has another go in Act 3. One night after the show I was chatting with an audience member who said how bittersweet it was given that those of us in the Muggle world don’t have access to Time Turners. We are left with our losses, regrets and missed opportunities.

This sentiment was reflected in the MuggleNet review of the show: “It’s funny, and it’s heart-breaking. It makes you want to wrap the characters up in a hug and tell them it’s going to be okay – even when you’re not sure it is.” In a way, this is what I was doing when I wrote the script. I was going back in my own timeline and trying to make sense of the things that happened to me and the things I did. Except I was going back as someone with more age and wisdom, and an ability to see things differently. To my mistakes I could bring understanding, for my losses I could grieve, and to all my experiences I could contextualise them within the abuses and neglect of cisheteronormativity. In effect, I could go back and wrap little me up in a big hug and tell them it’s going to be okay – because here I am, and I wouldn’t be here without them. That doesn’t mean I know what’s coming next but I’m still here, and that counts.

This process wasn’t quite as simple as writing a script and healing my wounds, other vital elements of this process include having therapy, reading Brene Brown books, exploring my emotional and spiritual growth at Embercombe, building relationships with people who see me and care about me, all of which I’ve written about on this blog. These things have taken years and I don’t regret any of them. They have given me new distance from which to view my past. Older and wiser I can see the young, queer me striving to survive and thrive in a world that often wanted me to fail. Kudos to little me. Storytelling forms a vital part of this process and is a tool I often use to make sense of my life, regardless of whether that writing ends up as a staged script. So, as it transpires, I can time travel. With memory, wisdom, storytelling and kindness, I can travel back and save me from the past that so often took so much away. Tickets!

The epic cast of Dumbledore Is So Gay: Max Percy, Charlotte Dowding and Alex Britt. Photo Alex Brenner

Dumbledore Is So Gay (Yes, He Is)

It’s showtime…tomorrow! After a long 18 months, sell-out success Dumbledore Is So Gay is back onstage, at the Pleasance Theatre from 21st – 26th September, get your tickets here! And it’ll be available online from 27th Sept – 11th October. Below are a few paragraphs from me that will be included in our online programme.

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Early 2019, I was doing the Pottermore Sorting Hat test. I got Gryffindor. I had mixed feelings because some of the Gryffindors can be pretty self-righteous (here’s looking at you Percy Weasley) but gold and red are great colours. Then one of my friends got Hufflepuff and, I’m ashamed to say, I made fun of them for it.

Early 2019, I’d been at a school in North London helping run a workshop on LGBTQ+ issues. I shared a real life story about a particularly bad experience of being bullied at school when I was a teenager. After I’d told my story some of the students wrote questions on post-it notes and one asked whether someone had helped me through the bullying. The answer was no, I had been completely alone. The student also wrote that they would have helped me through it, which kind of broke my heart. A lot of my life caught up with me then and so began a very acute and difficult period of depression.

Early 2019, a few months after the workshop and with the Sorting Hat on my mind, I started writing a script. The character of Jack quickly emerged, a Harry Potter super fan who struggles with getting sorted into Hufflepuff just as much as he struggles with his sexuality. The early drafts were written for me, more an exercise in figuring out and reclaiming my story. I’d read the book Straightjacket by Matthew Todd during the summer of 2016, which predominantly focuses on the experiences of gay men in contemporary society and the absolute minefield of issues they face, including prejudice, isolation and suicide. Over the following years I was able to locate my own experiences in this minefield. It was a tough reckoning that I never saw coming and absolutely no one had prepared me for. Towards the end of an early draft Jack wishes he has a Time Turner, so he can go back and transform his life for the better. Wait a second, I thought, maybe that could become part of the plot…

Early 2020 and rehearsals were underway for the first run of the show at the VAULT Festival. It was no longer my story but Jack’s and with lots of help from the cast and crew, especially director Tom, the script was well polished and stage-ready. The final week in February was a dream come true and we had an absolute blast staging the show. As a queer child and teen I lacked agency and power. I was told the wrong stories and experienced too much pain and indifference. It’s only as an adult that I can look back and better understand what it was I went through. It’s only now I can appreciate why so many queer folks don’t make it, including people I knew. I want this to change. So older queers like me can heal and younger ones won’t get hurt in the first place. For this, we’ll need good stories, which is why Jack’s back to take centre stage. His story is a testimony to the strength and resilience of LGBTQ+ folks, and a celebration of the endless immensity of the queer spirit.

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Don’t forget those tickets, Pleasance Theatre and  online!