Review: Horizon Showcase: Birthmarked

Joyous tale of coming out with a difference

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Photo by Paul Blakemore
Published 06 Aug 2023

A tale of queer consciousness-raising and coming out with a difference – with several differences, in fact. Birthmarked follows in the footsteps of author Ali Millar’s recent memoir The Last Days in discussing the fallout from, and the effect on, an individual's decision to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In this case, the person who left is Brook Tate, a young singer and artist from Bristol.

The title of the show refers both to the birthmark on Tate’s forehead, and to the way in which he comes to terms with what may have once been seen as flaws, but which are now indelible parts of his sense of identity. Discovering his sexuality with another young male Witness while on a missionary trip to China, Tate was subsequently reported to church authorities and ‘disfellowshipped’; essentially excommunication, but with adding social as well as religious banning. 

Tate has since moved to Bristol and built a new life for himself, and in addition to partially reuniting his family, he’s also met the members of the band for this show, who join him in creating a piece which is joyous, melodically interesting and increasingly disco, as he heads towards a full-costume reveal of his new self at the end. A lot of fun is had in the discussion of a serious subject, yet the show is almost stolen by the talking Gail the Whale, a large Biblical puppet wielded by Tate’s drummer.