The Convert- play review

★★★


In Ben Kavanagh's debut play, The Convert, an important topic is given a sci-fi twist. After his parents discovered he was gay, Alix (played by Nick Mower) is removed from society, into this otherworldly space, where every thought has consequences- each thing said must be mediated, and action accepted. At 'The Facility', if he cannot be corrected, his only option is to suffer a one-way trip to 'The Other Place'. Subjected to brutal torture at the hands of his Arbiter (Ben Kavanagh, himself), the show reflects upon disturbing real techniques used for conversion therapy, and encourages open conversation about this.


Using the small stage to their advantage, the piece, with direction from Gene David Kirk, develops this fictional narrative, in a way that makes it seem hauntingly real. The space doesn't contain much, besides a desk used for interrogation sessions, and two beds- one for Alix, and the other for his roommate, Marcus (Sam Goodchild). However, this resembles how one would imagine such a confined and harrowing place to be, and leaves the dramatisation of the performance in the emotions between characters, notably in the fight scenes. The back wall is often used for projection, which sometimes adds elements to the show; perhaps the most effective being the repetition of a conversion tape, detailing why it is bad to be gay.


Ben does well to portray the tyrannous Arbiter's robotic tones, and unfazed feeling when presented with dark moments. In contrast, both Nick and Sam display passion and depth in feeling with their suffering, all facing the subject with largely serious and informed gravitas, despite its unreality. While some makeup is applied on stage in dark transitions, it still appears to look realistic, with the beginning of act two being particularly jarring to the audience, having immediate impact.


With the show ending in a way that'll leave you thinking, The Convert doesn't seem afraid in presenting its message starkly. Though not overly enthralling or educational as a whole, it is a unique production that encourages further knowledge on the vile practises that still exist for LGBTQ+ people today, which is an important notion in society we are yet to overcome.