It’s very difficult to dislike Tommy, the narrator of this one man show. He’s open, warm, and willing to display a level of vulnerability that many performers would balk at. However, it’s equally difficult to credit his moniker, The Queer Historian, as this show has been put together without any of the precision, methodology or scope that that name would suggest.
the show flails about recklessly over the course of its hour
In Homophobe, Tommy tracks down people who wrote homophobic letters into various newspapers. His project seeks to uncover the impetus behind homophobia and to discover whether these bigoted views have changed at all in the intervening years.
That, at least, is what Tommy tells us is the premise of the show. The reality, however, is quite different. It isn’t just that Tommy only managed to find and interview one woman who had once written a hateful comment into a newspaper, it’s also that the show flails about recklessly over the course of its hour.
Sometimes it’s a personal history, as Tommy recounts the traumatic gay-bashing he was subjected to as a teenager. Sometimes it’s a camp magic-show, as Tommy fellates a balloon and chews up razor blades while lip-syncing to Girls Aloud or Spice Girls. An early monologue, presented to us on a video monitor, in which a gay man talks about the internet communities he found himself a member of in the late 90s, suggests that this show will deal with how social media is changing the experience of young queer people, but once broached, this topic is never brought up again.
A variety-show comprising anecdotes, skits and monologues exploring the various facets of homophobia could work well, yet Tommy continues to insist on the centrality of his newspaper-bigots project. A large portion of the show is devoted to his attempts to track down a woman named Margaret who once wrote to a newspaper about the immorality of gay clergyman. We eventually get to hear an extended phone conversation between the two, in which Margaret expresses regret for her former views and talks fondly about watching Graham Norton on the television.
Left at that, this could be a touching moment of reconciliation between two individuals. Yet Tommy attempts to fillip this encounter into a much broader comment about homophobia and society, building up to a virulent polemic that closes out the show. Yet, as any true historian knows, one phone-call does not a sample size make.
The sloppiness – both in design and in execution – muddles Tommy’s passionate words and dulls the overall impact. There is real feeling in Homophobe, which makes it all the more disappointing that all of its various segments aren’t tied together with anything like cohesion.