The power of theatre is immense and when you are totally swept along by that power it makes for an incredible night. Such was the case with Southern Baptist Sissies, Del Shores’ acutely observational study of the power of religion, the indoctrination of the Southern Baptist Church and the effect it has on four impressionable young men.
This play is stunning and superbly cast with acting high honours going to all concerned. Jason Kirk as Mark – he also partly narrates the story – is incredible. The fact that the four actors are all rather dishy has to be put on record as it would be amiss of me not to do so. The play deals with recriminations, contradictions, sexuality and prejudice. The story of the four boys is partnered with the wonderful story of Preston ‘Peanut’ Leroy and Odette. With these characters beautifully played by Don Cotter and Julie Ross, the emphasis is on pure comedy tinged with personal tragedy – think Steel Magnolias meets Book of Mormon. Lines like ‘Eating shrimp is like sucking cock’ and ‘Where are the penises, precious?’ are pure zingers. They performed their roles as if they were a seasoned double act.
The complexities of this play are superbly performed by an ensemble cast that deal with the subject matter and take a very attentive audience on a huge emotional rollercoaster. Shores also gets his character to have individual moments in the spotlight with each of them uttering a monologue that expertly explains their individual emotions. The hallelujahs comes thick and fast as does the scripture quotes, especially direct quotes from Leviticus that Shores weaves with great effect into a script that is pure magic.
Theatrical plaudits must be awarded here to all concerned and for the last five minutes hang on tight to the person next to you. Above the Stag continues to present plays that are so relevant to our times. Sensational, very moving and not to be missed!
Southern Baptist Sissies runs until 9 April at Above the Stag Theatre, 17 Miles Street, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1RZ. Book tickets via abovethestag.com.