Coming out is a life-changing experience. Everyone’s story is different and intensely personal, but what never changes is that, for everyone who isn’t straight, coming out never stops. Outings is a new play inspired by Tom Daley’s YouTube coming out video and is based on real-life stories crowd-sourced on the internet. The excellent core cast of four (who happen to all be comedians) is joined by a guest performer for each show, and they all play multiple roles, from real-life figures such as Harvey Milk and Ellen Page to the boy or girl next door. Or under one’s own roof.
Outings isn’t above exploring how comings out can affect other people, even though it also ironically dramatises the common litany of responses most people tend to hear.
Many of the tales recounted are incredibly uplifting, with better reactions than those coming out had ever hoped for. There are plenty of funny stories, too, particularly of one gay man who felt his mother’s response so relaxed that he insisted they act it out again with the reaction he had expected, just so he could play the queen! But, of course, Outings also reminds us that it’s incredibly hard for many gay, bisexual and transgender people to admit their sexuality, not only to themselves but to others, and that many are disowned, kicked out, bullied or worse.
The writers Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin include an interesting and engaging range of stories, with a mixture of character and pace, ensuring that our attention is held throughout. Some can be summarised in a sentence, or a word, which have their own power, but the most memorable are those that are given time and space to breathe, where we get a real sense of the people involved.
A particularly haunting tale is that of a married couple who are described as living in a metaphorical “cupboard under the stairs”. They hide there together, trying to keep his homosexuality a secret, and it’s painful to listen to the woman’s life crumbling around her while he feels his is just beginning as he starts to act on his true feelings. Outings isn’t above exploring how comings out can affect other people, even though it also ironically dramatises the common litany of responses most people tend to hear.
The word confession occurs once or twice during the play, and we are reminded that homosexuality is still illegal in some countries and thought of as a sin by many, yet the overwhelming message of this important new play is one of celebration of the diversity of the human experience. Outings is an intricately woven tapestry of stories that creates a colourful picture of humanity. Whether gay or straight, life is a mixture of highs and lows, of intense pleasure and pain, but none of it is worth it if you can’t be open and honest about who you are.