Review: The Beat of Our Hearts
Danni Darrah, print Lifestyle editor, reviews Natalie McGrath’s play The Beat of Our Hearts.
This month, the Exeter Northcott Theatre brought us Natalie McGrath’s The Beat of Our Hearts. The play’s heartwarming storytelling contrasts with the visceral shame experienced within the LGBTQIA+ community. Exploring themes such as loneliness and isolation, the play follows four members of the Queer community as they come to terms with their identity. They try to raise awareness of the prejudice and discrimination that LGBTQIA+ people experience every day. With brilliant BSL interpretation and wheelchair access, the Northcott Theatre made this show accessible for everyone.
The characters’ diversity is a microcosm of the wider LGBTQIA+ community
The play opens with the group’s Queer flag being destroyed and the consequent discussion that unfolds, during which each character expresses what the flag symbolises for them. As the play progresses, the audience is introduced to the characters’ nuanced personalities. Ranging from Luca, a young adult still struggling to understand exactly who they are, to gay 60-year-old Dove, who has come to love himself despite the trials and tribulations he has endured. The characters’ diversity is a microcosm of the wider LGBTQIA+ community. The group bonds over their shared identity; the two older characters, who are comfortable with their sexuality, provide a safe haven in which the younger men can explore their role within society.
Along with portraying the theme of isolation, McGrath incorporates aspects of nature beautifully into the script, imbuing the play with a fuzzy and warm atmosphere. The play switches settings, ranging from the beach (where it evokes liberating metaphors of being a free bird) to the pier (where the characters eat ice cream with child-like innocence and purity). My favourite scene was Val’s soliloquy during which she speaks about her dream, highlighting the contrast between the freedom she felt after accepting her lesbian identity and the anxieties of differing from societal norms.
The discussion panel that followed explored the audience’s reactions, as well as what the production team had hoped to convey. I had a conversation with an asexual audience member, Sandra Bellamy, who felt that her identity was under-represented within the community. She was overjoyed by the “authenticity of voices” and stories that McGrath’s play displays. The panel itself was a celebration of inclusivity, with one gay panel member emphasising the importance of “seeing a version of yourself” on stage. The Beat of Our Hearts will also be shown in schools and youth organisations to promote the acceptance of all identities. Let’s hope that this will encourage more people to think inclusively, both now and for generations to come.