The trope of a love triangle, in which a gay versus straight relationship are pitted against each other, is not new. However, How We Begin follows Helen and Diane’s relationship as Diane continues seeing her long term boyfriend; this somewhat subverts the trope of gay versus straight, through its focus on the same-sex relationship in the trio. Moreover, an all-female cast and crew help make the show more female-centred than other media which explore this issue.
Photo Credit: Charlie Sambrook
How We Begin may have benefitted from delving more into the difficult topics it addressed, instead of shying away from them. Admittedly, moments like Helen’s mother ironically stating that her daughter "doesn’t have to hide her relationships, as she might have done in the seventies", were powerful. However, these moments were fleeting, and there was a lack of in-depth conversation about the emotional turmoil of the main characters—this was only hinted at throughout the play. These moments were promising, and I hope writer Elisabeth Lewerenz will continue to bravely address these themes in more depth in later work.
Whilst both characters explored what it meant to be in a gay relationship in comparison to a straight one, where the relationship was assumed not to be serious by others, no move was made by either of them to rectify what they perceived as issues. Maybe this was my problem with the play. No blame seemed to be placed on Diane, the woman choosing to cheat on her boyfriend and force one of her best friends to hide their relationship. There was no turmoil in Helen having to decide whether she should stop seeing Diane or not, no conversation about what they could try and change to make things better. This relationship seemed to just 'happen' to the characters, rather than being acted out by them. They didn’t dream about its future, and they only lived in the present moment of the relationship, making it seem flat and unimportant to them.
I wanted to love this play, because Helen’s portrayal of a bi character who tackled specific problems faced by the bi community was refreshing and realistic. I wanted to love this play because the relationship was sweet, and the banter between the two main characters funny and relatable. I wanted to love this play but it felt divorced from reality. It seemed to romanticise a painful experience that did not seem to be taken seriously enough by the writer.
Ultimately though, this play was a fun and sweet exploration of a relationship between old friends. However, tropes about LGBTQ+ relationships being a ‘side piece’ to a straight relationship were not particularly subverted within the play, which was a shame.
'How We Begin' is on at the King's Head Theatre till the August 12th, and tickets are available here.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor