Even on a gloomy, rainy London evening, “Dumbledore is SO gay!” delivers a body and soul-warming theatrical experience. With its endearing characters, clever script, and a sprinkle of Harry Potter-themed charm, this production is a must-see for anyone seeking a dose of laughter, love, and the courage to be true to oneself. So, grab your wand, prepare your Patronus, and make your way to Southwark Playhouse – a queer, enchanting adventure awaits! But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Potterhead to enjoy this show – it’s just as good as a standalone “growing up gay” story.
Going back in time – but just slightly, to the 2000s – we meet Jack, a Harry Potter fan with a heart as big as Hogwarts itself. Alex Britt brings an irresistible charm to Jack, making him a relatable queer protagonist, whose struggles and triumphs resonate deeply with anyone who still remembers their teenage years. Jack’s journey from living in the metaphorical closet under the stairs to rewriting his own story is nothing short of captivating. As he navigates unrequited love, bullies and the tricky Heaven evenings, his determination to find his place in the world shines through. Jack, unhappy with how his coming out and life turned out, uses a time-turner (remember how Hermione used it in the books?) to go back and make it all better – but can he create a perfect life from a complex labyrinth of family and friends situation?
At its core, the play addresses the challenges of growing up queer at a time when the word “gay” still held negative connotations (the scene with the teenager shouting “you’re so gay” as a sarcastic insult was both painful and realistic to anyone growing up in the ’00s). This production serves as a little beacon of hope, shedding light on the struggles faced by LGBTQ+ individuals while celebrating their strength and resilience.
The show’s narrative arc culminates in a powerful message of self-acceptance and the importance of finding one’s path, all set against the backdrop of a spellbinding story.
Charlottte Dowding, Alex Britt, Martin Sarreal – Photo by David Jenson
“Dumbledore is SO gay!” weaves its magic not just through its characters, but also through its masterfully crafted script. With a large sprinkle of pop culture references (including Graham Norton), it’s just such a sunny, jolly story – I think the keyword here is “adorable”. Potterheads will find themselves delighted by the clever integration of magical terms and references, turning the show into a delightful homage to the wizarding world we all know and love. I would say if you enjoyed shows like “My Son’s a Queer” (Garrick Theatre) or “Heartstopper” on Netflix, this one should be right us your alley.
The play’s British essence of the show is undeniable, showering the audience with local brands and celebrity mentions that paint a vivid picture of the setting. While audiences from elsewhere might find themselves in need of a local guide to fully grasp every detail, the heart of the story remains universally resonant.
The stage set (by Natalie Johnson) gives some magic vibes without crossing that “ey ey, pay royalties to J.K Rowling” point. The stage looks like it was covered in a big sheet from Professor Trelawney’s book about astrology, and a couple of simple blue blocks/seats complete it.
There is a set of plain white lights that create a nice “going back in time” feel as they blink in a sequence, as well as during the John Williams-inspired track at the very beginning.
One of the most remarkable aspects of “Dumbledore is SO gay!” is the trio of young actors who take on a myriad of roles with finesse. The seamless transitions between characters create memorable moments, including heartwarming conversations between Jack’s mom and his friend Gemma, both played by Charlotte Dowding. The versatility and talent displayed by the cast are nothing short of magical. And oh gosh – Dowding’s portrayal of fierce Madame Dubois made me laugh and clap at the same time – we need more powerful ally teacher characters like this!
The chemistry between Dowding and Britt creates a dynamic that’s as engaging as it is heartening. Martin Sarreal’s Ollie brings a touch of vulnerability and authenticity to the stage, making the unfolding emotions all the more relatable.
Through the various versions of the same event, Ollie changes the most – from a closeted, almost angry boy, to someone much more comfortable with himself – and in all “versions”, he still keeps the same, underlining wonderful best friend character going. Well done!
PS. While the temperature inside the auditorium might have been akin to the fires of a dragon, the play’s narrative more than compensated it with its radiant energy. But please, Southwark Playhouse Team – reconsider the ventilation/air-con options in The Little! In the meantime – bring a fan with you when watching the show.
*I received the ticket in exchange for an honest review of the show
Dumbledore is SO gay!
Southwark Playhouse Borough
16-23 August 2023
Writer: Robert Holtom
Director: Tom Wright
Associate Director: Jennifer Davis
Producer: Hannah Elsy Productions
Co-Producer: Jon Kingsley
Production Marketeer: Adele Curtis
Production Management: Harry Fernley-Brown for New Wolf Productions
Movement Director: Rachael Nanyonjo
Set and Costume Design: Natalie Johnson
Lighting Design: Rory Beaton
Sound Design: Peter Wilson
Jack – Alex Britt
Gemma, Madame Dubois, and more – Charlotte Dowding
Ollie, Martin, and more – Martin Sarreal