Lord Dismiss Us review at theSpace at Surgeons Hall, Edinburgh – ‘full of humour but lacks structure’
Michael Campbell’s original novel Lord Dismiss Us was published in 1967, the same year homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK. As such, it offers contemporary insight to attitudes of the time.
Glenn Chandler’s adaptation is a brisk affair, focusing on the boys’ love affairs and the attempts by the incumbent headmaster to stamp out homosexuality.
Chandler’s script is full of humour but the more serious elements seem to be brushed over too casually. The villains of the piece, broadly played by Felicity Duncan and David Mullen, are great value but there’s never any real sense of danger from them. The boys seem far smarter and better placed socially than their headmaster and any real threat is somehow lessened. Much the same is true with Tom Lloyd as sympathetic teacher Ashley, and while suicide is hinted heavily, it’s not really made clear.
The boys are played enthusiastically by a young cast, notably Joshua Oakes-Rogers as the conflicted young protagonist Carleton. An obvious narrator for the piece, Carleton breaks the fourth wall so late in the play that it’s almost as if an earlier scene has been cut. Chandler has unearthed a gem of a source work here but needs to revisit the tone and structure to really be on the money.