Review: Dumbledore Is So Gay, VAULT Festival

Being Jack isn’t easy. He got sorted into Hufflepuff on the official online Harry Potter quiz and his Patronus isn’t some fierce animal like a wolf, but a hedgehog. His favourite character is Dumbledore, which will make sense later, and he thinks his best friend Ollie has really nice cheeks and that his nose looks like a ski slope for ants. 

But between his dad wanting Graham Norton to be less… Irish, the bullying and name-calling at school, keeping secrets and trying to get the guy, things don’t always work out perfectly. Thankfully, Jack has his trusty Time Turner and can do it all over again, just better.

With Dumbledore Is So Gay, Robert Holtom has dipped his quill into ink and written a coming-of-age drama for everyone – for those whose Remembrall has reminded them that they haven’t consumed any Harry Potter today, for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, for those who love to laugh and for anyone who isn’t scared of having feelings.

Dumbledore Is So Gay is bursting at the seams with gorgeous Harry Potter-themed innuendos and other treats for fantasy lovers. Its fast paced and back-and-forth through time does leave the play at risk of popping like the unfortunate Aunt Marge, but together with movement director Rachael Nanyonjo, director Tom Wright manages to merge moments of dancelike elation with those of quiet reflection. 

The minimalist set design using boxes which are assembled and reassembled by the cast to build each scene leaves space for lighting and sound design to create a sense of disorder or intimacy. The most delicate moments are the phone calls between Ollie and Jack. Lighting designer Rory Beaton douses the scene in strips of blue light and shadow, reflecting the sadness of the two having to share their emotions in secret. 

The fantastic cast has a lot thrown at them, playing alternating timelines and a variety of characters between them. Alex Britt adds layers to his character Jack. His energy becomes more and more desperate as he tries to change not only the lives of the people around him but also their perspectives.  

It would have been good to have Jack’s character start to become more active in campaigning for gay rights, as the pace of the play stops for Jack to share LGBTQ+ issues, making these moments more like lectures and not parts of the play.

Ollie is the play’s most complex character, with a lot of the more affecting moments centred around him. Max Percy gives the complexity of his character justice, showing real vulnerability in his performance.

Charlotte Dowding gives the best comedic performance of the night. Playing both Jack’s mum and Jack’s friend Gemma, she constantly switches sides, at times pausing to share exasperated looks with the audience. 

It’s moments like these that show Dumbledore Is So Gay is a play which doesn’t take itself too seriously, while still giving space for moments of depth. It shows us that, even without a Time Turner, a lot of change can be provoked by how we react to situations. 

Dumbledore Is So Gay is playing VAULT Festival until 1 March. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.