Playground politics and the drama between groups of parents is ripe material for writers of all kinds. From the excruciating tv show Motherland, to last year’s star-studded Eureka Day at the Old Vic, clashing personalities, and the heightened emotions of parents discussing their children serve to drive the comedy and drama. Through the guise of it being “about the kids” big topics can be analysed and debated in a seemingly innocent context. And this is where playwright Zak Zarafshan decides to set his debut play The Boys are Kissing.
The narrative focuses on two boys kissing in the playground, using this event as a driver for discussions about gender, sexuality, consent, racism, and abortion. Quite the list for just two hours on stage, and at times the themes do feel shoe-horned in. In particular, the comments about abortion feel thrown away, and perhaps this is a topic better left alone if not given the space and time it needs. But generally, this is a very good play, shining a light on ingrained prejudices and judgements, whilst proudly celebrating our differences.
We first meet the parents discussing the kiss, at the suggestion of the head teacher, with tensions instantly, and quite deliciously, tangible on stage. Amira (Seyan Sarvan) and Chloe (Eleanor Wyld) are a lesbian couple who question the need to even have the discussion, whilst Sarah (Amy McAllister) and Matt (Philip Coreia) struggle to discuss their viewpoint, and easily cause offence. Despite the upsetting issues under debate, the awkwardness between all four is very amusing. This group works together beautifully, with Wyld and McAllister being particularly enjoyable to watch throughout.
What lifts this play from being just another playground drama with an agenda, is the introduction of two Cherubs. In fact, they are the winged Guardians of the Gays, an ancient order which has been around for a long time – “New day, same old shit. I am very tired”. They are here to guide “queens through the wilderness of life”, and they are a genius addition to the narrative. Kishore Walker plays Cherub Two with charm, humour, and indulgence, whilst Shane Convery is an absolute joy to watch throughout. Plus, their make-up is perfection.
A simple, White Lotus-esque set seems to be quite static at first, portraying a wealthy middle-class home, until it’s brilliantly exploited in the second half. Without giving away any spoilers, the way the cherubs burst onto the scene at one point elicits screams and laughs throughout the theatre. Lighting and sound effects also come into their own whenever the cherubs appear, and this lift from the ordinary brings the play to life.
Sometimes theatre with a clear agenda can feel cliched or overdone. But what Zarafshan does in The Boys are Kissing is bring a playground drama to a whole new level. The inclusion of the cherubs is a funny move, but also an ingenious one. This is an entertaining play which succeeds in the important business of celebrating everyone’s differences, whilst also acknowledging that sometimes all we really want is a night in with a bottle of Pinot Noir and possibly a kitchen island, if we’re lucky enough.
Written by: Zak Zarafshan
Directed by: Lisa Spirling
Produced by: Ceri Lothian
The Boys Are Kissing played at Theatre503 until 4 February 2023.
The show will next be available on-demand. Tickets must be purchased by 7 March 2023, and then the show will be available to watch from this date for one month. Further information can be found here.