There Were Two Brothers

Part confessional monologue, part lecture and part nostalgic trip back to the days of the BBC’s Jackanory, there’s no doubt that There Were Two Brothers is a funny, personal—yet surprisingly universal—exploration of fraternal relationships. Not least the often unspoken truth that even the closest of childhood siblings can turn out to keep secrets from each other—but, if they’re lucky, will have the opportunity to get to know each other again as adults.

This may be a show about gay men—real and imagined—and their siblings, but it easily resonates with anyone familiar with the complexities of family life.

Originally commissioned for the 2014 Glasgay! festival, it’s hardly surprising that a large part of this show’s focus is on Mark Kydd’s own personal journey from ‘theatrical’ eldest of five children, growing up in Dundee (decades before it redefined itself as the City of Discovery), to coming to terms with his sexuality within the nascent gay scene of 1980s’ Edinburgh. The unseen, but equally important figure in this story is younger brother Paul—born on Mark’s second birthday, a ‘present’ from his parents ‘whether he liked it or not’. Although happy siblings during childhood, adolescence soon begins to change things.

Paul, we’re told, was ‘a dreamer’ who would lock himself away in his room listening to music; Mark, in comparison, was the shy boy who over-compensated by becoming a performer, albeit one who knew enough about school bullies to keep quiet about his ballet lessons—setting a precedent, like many gay men before and since, for him becoming quite ‘accomplished at keeping secrets’. These autobiographical elements are thankfully told with honesty and a complete lack of sentimentality, although you can’t help but smile at his wish he could ‘talk to my 10-year-old self; give myself a hug’.

Mark’s life and relationship, particularly with Paul, are contrasted with one of Mark’s early literary discoveries, I Look Divine by American author Christopher Coe. This 1980s novel focuses on the life and death of ‘flamboyant’ gentleman Nicholas—beautiful, wealthy, hopelessly vain—seen through the eyes of his quiet, respectable brother. The sibling relationship, as much as the homosexuality, is what resonated with Mark at the time, which is why he successfully contrasts his own life with an imagined incarnation of the author, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1994: now remembered in three words: “Wrote Gay Novels”.

Under Ros Sydney’s direction, Mark is spot-on as a performer, just the right degree of camp when required; as writer, he’s honest enough to avoid any single moment of reconciliation, and instead focus on how he and Paul learned “how to be ourselves in each other’s company”. This may be a show about gay men—real and imagined—and their siblings, but it easily resonates with anyone familiar with the complexities of family life.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Traverse Theatre

Arctic Oil

Multiple Venues


Multiple Venues


Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

Underbelly, Bristo Square

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Assembly George Square Studios

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The Blurb

Inspired by an obscure 1980s novel, actor and writer Mark Kydd has woven together fact and fiction to create an intimate, funny and heartfelt show about his experience of growing up gay in Scotland. Part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.