A brand new comedy drama is heading to London. This new piece of queer theatre shines a light on the progression of gay rights and gay culture over the last to decades. Specifically how much it has changed, in most part for the better. The show has been developed from the writers’ own experiences growing up gay, surrounded by religion and in the final days of section 28, a law which prohibited the ‘promotion’ of LGBTQ+ themes in schools and public spaces run by local authorities.
The show, titled Wet Feet, follows the unlikely events that unfold when two strangers meet at the local gay sauna. A place known for mystery, sex and exploration; these two gentlemen find themselves in a journey of truth, love and self-discovery.
Sir Ian McKellen has recently spoken about his fears on a section 28 like law returning. He called the prospect ‘dreadful’. There is growing worry that a copycat of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay, Don’t Say Trans’ law could be introduced in the UK. The law bans all discussion related to LGBTQ existence across all grades.
Michael created the show to open up discussion and invite younger audiences into understanding just how awful section 28 was. Michael says, ‘Now more than ever it’s important to remember just how much fighting LGBTQ+ people had to endure for the rights so many of us take for granted today. I went to school in the 90’s and early 2000’s and had no idea I was growing up under section 28, I was 15 when the law was scrapped in the UK, but I think the lasting effects of that law remained for quite a while.
Michael is a graduate of Guildford School of Acting and has developed the piece with his co-star Matthew Edgar. A study from Yale university conducted in 2019 estimated 83% of people who identify as LGBTQ+ keep their sexual orientation hidden from all or most of the people around them. The 2021 census found that over 70% of the UK LGBTQ+ community do not follow a religion. With so many men and women still choosing to either hide or limit who knows about their sexual orientation, the show looks at the underground culture of Gay saunas in which many closeted men frequent. It also shows the lasting effects of a character (based on true experiences) who has had to deal with heavy religious ideas growing up in an environment where being Gay wasn’t an option.
Michael continues, ‘I was so lucky, when I came out, my Mum and Sister hugged me and life continued, my extended family and friends were so supportive. I grew up believing an idea of how I needed to be based on belief but when it came to the crunch my Mum dropped everything she believed, because her love for me was stronger. But it’s not like that for everyone and I’ve heard horror stories through researching for this show’.
There are young LGBTQ+ people in the UK that may not even know Section 28 existed, many will grow up in a world where they have always had the option to marry. For the most part, it’s got better, but it’s important to always remember, be grateful and be vigilant, because the minute we stop being present is the minute all these rights could be taken away. The government is still to fulfil its promise to ban conversion therapy. According to Stone Wall, more than 1.5 million LGBTQ+ people are at risk. It’s still illegal to be Gay in so many commonwealth nations.
Michael went viral in 2015 when a mother of his youth theatre group pulled her children from joining his organisation because of his sexual orientation. His response hit headlines all over the world. He featured in many news publications including in Attitude.
Michael previously directed regionally in the UK and last directed at The Other Palace in London in 2018. Wet Feet marks his debut as a writer and as a performer in London, his co-star Matthew Edgar will be making his professional debut. Wet Feet is heart-warming, funny and insightful. Directed by Dominic Rouse, it will be playing for a limited run at The Union Theatre on Thursday 19th and Friday 20th October. More information can be found here.