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Having seen what the Earl of Rochester got up to and openly wrote about in the 17th century, it seems incredible that Mart Crowley’s THE BOYS IN THE BAND caused even the mildest stir when it premiered off-Broadway in 1968.

It’s Harold’s birthday and half a dozen of his gay friends have organised a party for him. There’s previously married teacher Hank (still determinedly passing as straight) who arrives, mid-argument, with his promiscuous live-in boyfriend Larry (Ben Mansfield), Donald (Daniel Boys) who can’t decide what to do with his life or where to live it, doubly discriminated against African-American Bernard (Greg Lockett), and James Holmes’ outrageously flamboyant Emory for whom the word camp could have been invented as he sashays around host Michael’s East Side apartment with its posters of Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis.

credit: Darren Bell

The unexpected arrival of Michael’s former college roommate Alan (a hunkily masculine, deep-voiced John Hopkins in a tux) who knows nothing about his old friend’s sexual orientation, serves as a catalyst which, with the help of too much booze turns the celebrations decidedly nasty.

There’s something distinctly formulaic in Crowley’s attempt to include as many stereotypes of homosexuality as possible - Mark Gatiss’s Harold is a self-proclaimed “42 year-old, ugly, pock-marked Jew fairy” with a slight mince to his step and a bitterly sardonic tongue; his birthday gift from Emory a half-naked Cowboy (Jack Derges) who’s all body and no brains. But, almost 50 years down the track, Adam Penford’s revival (though somewhat dated and certainly no longer shocking) is still an often very funny, frequently touching account of lives lived under the constant shadow of disapproval – and worse.


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Theatre Review: The Boys in the Band
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