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Our 1972 at the Hope Theatre | Review

I was recently looking at Carol Vorderman’s X account. She likes to highlight what she refers to as the hypocrisy of the current Government (at the time of writing), in its various forms. There are various criticisms of various parliamentarians. It’s an interesting contrast (at least to me) with Andrew (Josh Maughan). In this play, set (as the title suggests) in 1971-1972, his criticisms of the Government extend name-dropping just one Cabinet minister, Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education and Science at the time, citing the withdrawal of free school milk from children over seven. It seemed a rather rudimentary takedown of the Government of the day for an undergraduate studying politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Our 1972
Our 1972

Then again, this isn’t primarily a political play, but more of a coming-of-age one, in which a nervous and closed-off Andrew – Andy to his friends, apparently – encounters a more gregarious Benjamin (Peter Hadfield), or Ben to his friends. Opposites attract, as the old adage would have it, and you can probably guess from a mile or two away what happens in a two-hander play. Andrew is singing a song, and Benjamin walks in, recognises it, likes it, and starts singing it too, and it wasn’t long before they were biting each other’s faces off.

Both lads have diary entries – I was sufficiently intrigued by the dates that I looked up the 1971-1972 LSE academic calendar after the show. Their first lectures were not, as the play indicates, in August, as the Michaelmas Term did not start until 4th October, and teaching did not begin until 6th October. A more salient point is that this was before mass participation in higher education, and a still more salient point is that gay people at the time were, by and large, somewhat ashamed of their sexual orientation, perhaps because of societal norms and attitudes. After exchanging a kiss, for instance, this duo could only respond with “I don’t know” to direct questions asked of one another about their feelings.

I learned more about the first Gay Pride march in July 1972 from a recollection I read on the way home by Peter Tatchell than I did from the play. Given some of the difficulties encountered by the LGBT+ community back then, it would seem Andy and Ben had it relatively easy, even if they were spared being attacked in public, physically, verbally or otherwise, on account of their appropriate precautions. This in itself doesn’t make for a dull theatrical experience – there is, after all, something about looking after oneself and keeping one’s wits about you that can be applied to any potentially dangerous situation.

Some inter-scene still and moving projected images and accompanying sound provide some helpful context, though the final set could be done away with, trying too hard as it does to link more contemporary political rhetoric with the sort of statements made a generation ago. It also gives the final say, as it were, to the politicians, rather than the LGBT+ community. ‘Coming out’ is an issue that could have been dealt with more comprehensively – Ben admits to his forgiving mother that he is in a same-sex relationship, although this isn’t the last conversation of that kind he is likely to have, and as people in the LGBT+ community tell me, they don’t come out once, but again and again and again.

That said, there are some convincing performances from the actors, who take on more roles than just Andy and Ben, and provide some very nuanced emotions as their relationship goes through highs and lows. An epilogue or postscript would have been a good addition, as the audience is otherwise left wondering what ever became of Andy and Ben after the summer of 1972. Unless, of course, there’s a sequel in the making in any event.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Andy wanted to be top of his class this year. Ben wanted to be LSE’s star cricketer. Both wanted to listen to Carole King records. Neither expected to be part of the movement that pioneered the first Gay Pride in London.

Our 1972 is a political romance that pays tribute to the LGBTQ+ trailblazers of the 1970s. Follow Andrew and Benjamin as they wrestle with their realities and ideologies at the turning point of Queer British politics.

Award-winning production company Springbok returns to The Hope Theatre for a third time, for the debut of Josh Maughan’s new play.

3 – 6 JAN 2024

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