New documentary musical, After the Act, examines dark days of Section 28

Graham Robson February 3, 2023

A new documentary musical from Breach TheatreAfter the Act – examines the dark period of UK history when Section 28 prohibited the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, and the knock-on effect on the queer community today.

It has been 35 years since Section 28 was voted into law by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, and 20 years since its repeal. Award-winning devised theatre makers Breach Theatre (It’s True, It’s True, It’s True) debut their brand-new musical with a queer cast of performers who grew up during the time the legislation was in action. Every word in the show is taken from interviews the company has undertaken with students, activists, and teachers, as well as from tabloid articles and news clips from the era. After the Act takes its title inspiration from Before the Act, a night of entertainment and protest in response to the clause in 1988.

Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act prohibited the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by schools and local authorities. It was passed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government at the height of the AIDS crisis, amidst right-wing media hysteria about ‘loony lezzies’, ‘plague-ridden poofters’ and the danger they posed to children. Local councils and state schools erred on the side of caution and, for the most part, avoided mention of homosexuality during these years – putting teachers in a difficult situation and leaving pupils in the dark. After years of opposition by different campaign groups, and gradually shifting public opinion, Section 28 was repealed by New Labour in 2003.

Ellice and Billy from Breach Theatre said: “As part of the generation that grew up under Section 28, this is a story that’s hugely personal to us as well as political. The moral panic of the ’80s over LGBTQ+ inclusive education had an enormous impact on our coming of age and sense of ourselves as young queer people in the ’90s and ’00s.

“It’s been fascinating and a real privilege to speak to so many LGBTQ+ people of a slightly older generation who remember the fight for and against Section 28, and to people of all ages on its impact on them. We hope that by telling their stories, anyone who comes to see the show – will be inspired to continue the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and representation.”

Catch After the Act at New Diorama Theatre, 15-16 Triton St, London NW1 3BF from February 28 – April 1. 

For tickets, CLICK HERE