Dumbledore Is So Gay is a new play written by Robert Holtom.
It ain’t easy being Jack. He hates French, he got sorted into Hufflepuff on the official online quiz and he’s in love with his best friend Ollie. But dodging bullies, keeping secrets and trying to get the man is too much for Jack to take. So he pulls out his trusty Time Turner and does it all over again. Maybe this time he’ll get into Gryffindor.
Directed by Tom Wright, the production will star Alex Britt, Max Percy, and Charlotte Dowding.
Ahead of the play’s run at London’s Vault Festival, I caught up with Robert Holtom for a behind-the-scenes look at the play.
What was your initial inspiration for this story?
One of the biggest inspirations was Matthew Todd’s Straightjacket – a sometimes difficult, often inspiring read predominantly about the gay male experience in contemporary society.
As for personal experiences, I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of prejudice and I’ve often had to forge my identity in the face of indifference.
I’ve also met countless amazing LGBTQ folks and been inspired by their creativity and resilience.
All of the above has gone into the play.
Is the world of Harry Potter inherently queer?
The world of Harry Potter could be interpreted as inherently queer if magic is queerness and muggles are straight people! But much of this is possible subtext rather than the text itself.
As for Dumbledore, being super great at magic, incredibly compassionate, able to head a school and being gay, that does make him pretty iconic. Although I’d love to know more of what it was like for Dumbledore to be gay in the wizarding world. Maybe it was easy or maybe not.
Queer people identify with Harry Potter because we’re often made to feel different from the rest of the world, as those with magic are in the world of Harry Potter. However, like magic, queerness can be a superpower that we can harness for our own happiness and freedom. It’s exciting to see what is often presented as a weakness actually turn into an amazing strength.
What’s been the development process for the play?
I started working on the script early in 2019, and then met director Tom Wright – author of My Dad’s Gap Year, and Undetectable. I really admire his work and we connected over our passion of bringing authentic LGBTQ stories to life.
We’ve had two read-throughs, which really helped to bring the voices of the characters to life as well as refine their relationships and story arcs – especially between Jack and his parents.
Rehearsals start soon, which we’re very excited for, and then it will be show time.
We can’t wait for you to see it!
Have young queer kids got it a bit easier today in terms of figuring out their sexuality?
I hope so. There are certainly way more TV shows and films, characters to identify with, books, magazines, and a greater awareness in wider society. We’re also better at talking about mental health and education is improving, but not without a fight.
There’s so much to celebrate in terms of how far we’ve come. But there’s still much further to go, especially in combatting transphobia, which is often treated as acceptable.
LGBTQ hate crime is also on the rise, so we’ve got to be vigilant.
Resilience is a key theme of the play, and you’ve talked about how just being ‘gay and happy’ is in itself an act of rebellion. How does that message translate to audiences who don’t identify as LGBTQ?
We all want to be happy and we all want to feel like we belong in this world – that’s just as true for people who don’t identify as LGBTQ.
Of course, the ways we can belong and the ways we’re excluded are very different, but that quest for community is ubiquitous.
Your sexuality doesn’t have to matter when it comes to rooting for a character who wants to be happy. We can all enjoy watching Jack face the trials and tribulations of his life.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Dumbledore Is So Gay?
We hope people will feel happy and, at times, a bit sad. We want them to laugh and maybe nod knowingly from time to time. We hope they’ll feel like they’ve watched a great piece of theatre and heard a good story.
If we’ve really done our job, we hope people will leave the theatre feeling inspired – whether it’s just to keep going, or to keep creating, or to get involved.
At heart, Dumbledore Is So Gay, is an uplifting, coming-of-age story for the naughties. It’s funny, upbeat and honest, and you don’t have to be a Harry Potter super fan – or gay – to enjoy it.