Southern Baptist Sissies is a story of growing up gay in bible belt America, where, to this day, being gay is still considered an illness to many people. Four young boys, Mark, Andrew, TJ and Benny, all attend the same Baptist Church but as the boys hit puberty, they start to realise they have un-christian desires for each other. Can they overcome their feelings for the same sex and live good Christian lives or will they burn in hell for the sins they commit?
Writer Del Shores (who wrote the American adaption of TV show Queer As Folk) grew up in this exact environment, with a preacher for a father, repressing his true homosexual feelings and even marrying a woman for nine years to try to live the life he thought God wanted him to. All four characters are aspects of himself from this difficult time in life, where children grow up and have to figure out who they are.
Jason Kirk is brilliant as the lead character, Mark who falls in love with his long time friend TJ, who fights off his feelings and ends their friendship in order to live a ‘normal’ life. Daniel Klemens (TJ) gives a powerful performance and doubles up as the stripper in the show. Above The Stag regular performer Hugh O’Donnell gives a strong performance as sexually confused Andrew and James Phoon is camptastic as the ‘I am what I am’ Benny.
Don Cotte (Preston) and Julie Ross (Odette) sit in the bars at night, drinking themselves in to oblivion. Preston (or Peanut as he is called to his friends) knows he is old and past his prime, wondering if anyone will ever want him and Odette is an alcoholic, just looking for a fix. They provide some great comedy in the show and fuse well together as a double act. It was a reminder in the story that even later on if life, people still struggle and it doesn’t necessarily get any easier after puberty.
Southern Baptist Sissies is a brilliant play with some lovely musical interludes performed by actor-musician Simon David. It is a brutally honest reminder of how hard it is growing up and figuring out who you are and then once you know, embracing it.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Southern Baptist Sissies plays at Above The Stag Theatre until 9 April 2017