I was very disappointed that a great production of Phillip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials at The Birmingham Rep had to be marred by a little negative stereotyping. In Part Two, the angels were portrayed by the two male actors as rather ‘delicate’ and fey enough to get ripples of laughter. I was discussing the portrayal with someone in the bar at the interval who protested that ‘the angels are supposed to be asexual’, so why did it get a laugh and one did one bright spark in the audience whisper rather too loudly ‘they must be gay‘.
For me portrayal was unnecessary and would have been the equivalent of having two black angels sing ‘De Camptown Races’ and saying ‘Yes Masser, No Masser’.
I would be interested to know from whom the idea for ‘camp’ angels came? Was it the playwright (Nicholas Wright) or the directors (Rachel Kavanaugh and Sarah Esdail). I wonder what Phillip Pullman thinks about it, given his criticisms of C.S.Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, as sexist and racist. The difference it that the Lewis books need to be understood in the historical context of the 1950s. Maybe that’s no excuse, but it does beg the question: What excuse could there be for a 21st Century production to use cheap, lazy and unnecessary stereotyping?