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The Wall Rises: ‘These Walls Between Us’ explores queer love in the era of Thatcher

Photo by Jp Valery (@jpvalery)

These Walls Between Us, written and directed by Sarena Moss and produced by Alice Loizides, explores the lives of two queer couples in 1990, during the height of the AIDS crisis and in the era of Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister. Their lives in London are punctuated by the loss of friends, an onslaught of homophobic abuse, and the struggle to survive in an unforgiving and cruel world. 

The first act opens with striking lighting falling down on two couples: Leonard (Eri Okoye) and Mark (Theo Burns), illuminated in pink, and Kathy (Ella Dale) and Esther (Maia Abayomi), illuminated in blue. The bodies of the two couples intertwined rhythmically to a steady beat.

I was quickly struck by how poetic the dialogue was. Esther, a 26-year-old poet, struggles to finish her works and finds herself aided by Kathy as the two lie in bed. The interchange of dialogue was comical at times, playfully overdramatic, but always jarringly beautiful. 

With only two beds on the stage, the attention shifted to Leonard, an artist, and Mark, who is trying to make his way in the banking world without revealing his queerness. Mark’s struggle is particularly poignant. His denial of a part of himself for the sake of financial success strains his relationship with Leonard and portrays the struggle of queer people throughout the ages. 

Leonard is more flamboyant and feels he represents an ‘underclass of homosexuals’ who came to London in order to find a new home. This again struck me as a continuously relevant theme for those outsiders in society who simply wish to find their place and thrive in a prohibitive society. Set in the context of an increasingly prohibitive government, the theme was all the more effective. 

Walls rise in the second act, and the struggles of every character become even more visible. Surprising revelations are placed artfully throughout the script until the walls seem almost unbreakable: “You have built these walls between us and only you can deal with the consequences,” said Leonard—and shivers went down my spine. 

Sarena Moss does an outstanding job in her first written debut, conveying the moving hardships of such relevant and relatable characters.

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