‘Different From the Others’, written by Claudio Macor, is a sobering reminder of just how long activists have been banging the drum and working tirelessly to defend people’s rights to love who they desire, regardless of gender. We see how this often involves working against the tide and sticking your neck out for what you believe in.
Directed by Jenny Eastrop, this play takes us back to 1919 Berlin. It’s the advent of motion pictures and silent films, and we learn how the first ever pro-gay film was made. Dr Magnus Hirschfeld is a sexologist and in his role, he witnesses first hand the experience of tortured men concealing their love from the world and eventually taking their lives. Incensed, the Doctor resolves to create a film which will challenge Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal code, the section which criminalises ‘unnatural sexual offenses’ between men.
After some arm-twisting, Dr Hischfeld is able to convince Richard Oswald (Christopher Sherwood) to direct and together they rather swiftly manage to assemble an eclectic collection of actors. The cast stars Conrad Veidt (Jordan Alexander), Kurt Giese (Simon Stallard), Reinhold Schünzel (Benjamin Garrison) and Anita Berber (Beth Eyre).
This one-act play demonstrates the power of human resolve and the impact that people can have to change minds through art. It’s possible to understand the play without seeing the film from which the show takes its title. However it did at times feel like after building up to the creation of the film, the film was a missing piece required to complete the picture. The cast deliver solid performances and the playful humour woven into the text is enjoyable to see. The ping-pong nature of the dialogue and how each character appeared to finish off each other’s sentences felt grating at times. However the show largely succeeds in bringing to its audience a fascinating story that with the passage of time may have easily been forgotten about.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, significant strides of progress have been made in the last century. Just last month it was announced that Northern Ireland will legalise same sex marriage. However, when we hear things like protests against LGBTQ+ education in schools, it’s a frustrating reminder that we’ve got a long way to go. ‘Different From the Others’ reminds us that it might not be easy fight but it’s a worthwhile one to pursue for generations to come.
Different From the Others is running at the White Bear Theatre between 29th October and 16th November 2019 at the time of writing.