Stop Kiss at Above The Stag | Review

Show rating: ★★★★★
Accessibility rating: ★★★★

It's clear to see that LGBT+ representation has been improving on our TV screens, in films and on stage over the years but as a queer woman, I often feel as though I'm still not getting the representation I'd like. One of my favourite theatres are making strides to address this though, I've loved everything I've seen at Above The Stag previously, the UK's only LGBT+ theatre, but it's fair to say that in the past things have been more directed to a male audience and whenever I've visited I've been one of only a few women in attendance. So, when me and my girlfriend, Jemma, spotted this production we wasted no time in booking our tickets in the hope of finally seeing some accurate representation that spoke to us as women.

After Callie meets Sara, the two unexpectedly fall in love. Their first kiss provokes a violent attack that transforms their lives in a way they could never anticipate. Written and first performed in 1998, STOP KISS is still as potently relevant now as it was back then. - Above The Stag

It is unbelievable to think this play was written in 1998, as it easily could have been written this year. It wasn't that long ago that a story hit the news about two women having been attacked on a bus, but this time for refusing to kiss for a man's entertainment. It was a sobering reminder of how far we have to go still and I think that is what makes this such an important production. Whenever I hold Jemma's hand or kiss her in public I am always thinking about who is around us in the back of my head and potential consequences of showing a little affection in public, so as difficult as it was at times to watch such a realistic story play out, it was also comforting to see such accurate representation.

The majority of the play revolves around Callie and Sara as we watch as they fall in love. This show is packed full of heart warming moments and it felt so personal to watch this romance unfold on stage. Kara Taylor Alberts and Suzanne Boreel fulfilled these roles perfectly, their chemistry is a dream to watch and I really felt myself being invested in their story and rooting for them at every turn. The show switches between them falling in love and the aftermath of the attack, the result of them sharing their first kiss in public. These transitions are smooth and work beautifully, they really utilise the small space of the studio theatre with ease. Kara and Suzanne are supported by a strong ensemble, most of whom only appear in the scenes after the attack which adds an important dynamic, particularly to Callie's story as she tries to come to terms with the situation mostly on her own, the unfamiliar faces represent that perfectly. It also really beautifully shows how challenging it can be to have to come out to people again and again, especially during the era that this show is in set in.

One of the first things I remarked on once we'd left was that they didn't show the actual attack, and I really applaud them for that. I had a little anxiety during the show as we led up to the moment but, they know their audience well and know that showing the attack would serve no purpose to the story. This was more about their love story before and after, how each character reacted and dealt with various situations and about how complicated love can be. Everything was handled sensitively, this was truly such a refreshing production that means a lot to my girlfriend and I. There was a sweet moment in the aftermath of the attack where Callie helps to dress Sara during her recovery and she ends up falling on her and her wheelchair, a moment that will always mean a lot to us I think because that kind of sums up our relationship and I honestly never thought I'd see anything on stage that resembles our relationship. The writing feels so reflective of everyday life and the struggles that LBGT+ people face, but also that we fall in love and feel awkward just like everyone else, it's so relatable and it really showcased the importance of theatres like ATS.

It's difficult to put into words how much this show means to us both, the sheer joy it brought into our lives was just wonderful and we've already booked to go again. I can't recommend this show enough, but particularly to any LGBT+ women out there, I would love to see more shows like this at Above The Stag in the future and so it's so important that we show our support and demonstrate there is demand for our stories to be told authentically.

As for the access, this plays a big part in the theatre earning itself a spot on my list of favourite theatres to visit. Every part of the theatre is step free, I can see shows in the main theatre or the studio theatre and I can book those tickets online. The bar is accessible to me and there are a mix of high and low tables, as well as there being a decent sized accessible toilet. The only reason I haven't awarded them 5 stars is because they sadly don't offer a free or reduced price carer/companion tickets. However, other than that I truly cannot fault their access and I always feel welcome there.

Stop Kiss is playing until 1st December, tickets are £22.50 each.

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