Written by Lewis Hetherington
Directed by Sophie Howell
A vet. A psychiatrist. A sorcerer. A filmmaker or a chef. A Power Rangers villain. These were all avenues which, at one point, I seriously considered undertaking (still working on that last one). And the idea that in another universe, only marginally different to our own, these aspirations may have become a reality is something which plagues the mind, often late at night, or when we feel most vulnerable. Questions surrounding the ‘who, even ‘what’, of the self infiltrate everyone’s lives – including those with questions relating to their sexual identity in a world so determined to confine them to a label.
Multiverse theory, that of different universes to our own with alterations is far from new. And plot-wise, is just as old, but the re-vitalised taste for this narrative form has led to contemporary blockbuster hits and Academy-winning films. But to stage this idea is less-frequent, as Science-Fiction often finds itself relegated to the side-lines of theatrical presentation. A brand-new piece, from Lewis Hetherington, is performed by a new selection of the Lyceum Theatre’s Youth Company of performers, with support from a team of creatives. The Multiverse is Gay exists in the now, an experience in bridging the gaps audiences have with new Queer and LGBTQA+ stories while celebrating the local talents we have here, in Scotland, in Edinburgh.
Amber has always felt on the boundary of something, but they are not sure what it is. Despite her pals’ faults, their friends are warm and welcoming (well, maybe not Cameron), but in a world which seems to be tearing itself apart at the seams, self-inflicted, Amber struggles to see their place. But a different world could aid in re-discovering the value of this life. And one such golden statue, a very real statue in the Water of Leith, Dean Gardens, of a beaver (or an otter, who knows really) which has a unique ability: to transport those who touch it into a new world – the big nowhere of the multiverse where they encounter all the variations of themselves.
As one might imagine by the title, Hetherington’s production is hella gay. And we are living for every queer-coded, loud and proud moment of this multiverse-hopping extravaganza that, whilst bright, colourful and forward-thinking still retains a sensitivity and intelligence outside of the camp, kitsch and humorous.
As Amber, the de-facto lead in a significant ensemble cast, Orla Bayne has a tricky duty carrying the audience through an internal and external journey of identity. They rise to the task with a subtle sincerity, carried well through their performance – one which balances smaller moments of humour that counter-act some of the other versions of Amber who heavier lean on the device. They work tremendously well as a part of the friendship unit, clearly a part of, though skirting the edges of this rag-tag bunch. Bayne never slips into the background, but their performance sticks to the characters’ inability to push themselves to the forefront. They achieve a rather brilliant balance – no small feat, a testament to their performance, and Sophie Howell’s direction.
Laura Hawkin’s lighting is a trip – in every sense of the word. Playful, and atmospheric, but still serving a purpose, the Multiverse has rarely looked so appealing, and that’s the secret danger in this world where we may feel too comfortable. Amber meets all forms of other Ambers in this world, from the invisible ghost Amber (leading to an excellent stage-exit gag) to more the familiar Amber 602, an apathetic Amber played pitch-perfect by Annabelle Conroy who never fails to gain a laugh with their dry delivery and Amber 603 – punched full of pep and nervous fizz from Lucy Campbell.
Hetherington’s writing works towards a satisfactory conclusion which, while not entirely revolutionary, reinforces the beauty in accepting ourselves – even the darker elements we usually spurn. The envy, the bitterness and even the more unsavoury aspects of manipulation and survival all play a role in making Amber precisely who they are. And conjuring these with a delicious sense of Machiavellian puppeteering is Lewis James’ Amberate, the original, the first of the variations of this Amber multiverse. His performance is one of the strongest, as is Amber’s first encounter with a variant: Bamber, Angus Bryan’s statistical and informative guide to the Multiverse with all of its wonders and confusions.
There are signs of anxiety rippling in a few cast members, those unsure of where to place their hands or worry about keeping their bodies too still, but Jo Richards’s movement direction offers a wide variety of interpretive movement throughout the production. But one performer who has zero issues with their body language is Ryan Simpson’s Glamber, who drives home the production’s embracement of the cabaret style – lip-synching and serving up every moment on stage, making a dynamic pairing with James and Cee Reville’s Chilly, a story collector for the multiverse.
There’s still an appeal to Amber’s home world, particularly in the form of her friends – who take up the other half of the story in their search for the missing Amber but manage to discover more about themselves as they search. Initially, the one to spot their disappearance and fearful they know the cause, Sophie Kayembe carried a nuanced sincerity as Jessie, a pleasantly subdued role amidst the chaos and noise. While Odhran Thomson’s Benny and Ava Richmond’s forthcoming and intermediary activist Robin bring additional elements of calmness, but with very authentic performances. As too does a brilliantly performed Caz, one of Amber’s friends Benny’s older sibling, by Nora (El) Rose Thre-Rae serves as a more grounded performer to some of the less confident around them.
Hetherington’s imaginative production lunges aspects of sexuality, identity, hopes and fears at the wall and hurtles lashing of enthusiasm throughout The Multiverse Is Gay. And though fast-paced, taking time to examine the ongoing struggles new generations continue to face, the show demonstrates the value of discussing these with an openness of creativity. And that the future of theatre is safe, and in capable hands eager to face, and hopefully solve, the ongoing battles – to ensure a victory for acceptance, creativity and self-love.
Our Future is Safe
The Multiverse is Gay runs at The Royal Lyceum Theatre Rehearsal Room until April 15th. Tuesday – Saturday, 19.00pm a matinee on Saturday at 14.00pm.
Running time – One hour and ten minutes without interval. Suitable for ages 12+
Tickets begin from £10.00 (Con. available) and may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – Mihaela Bodlovic