By The Balls Theatre’s Goodbye ’89 may be fictional but it sings with truthful pride at VAULT Festival
“We don’t all live in fantasy Lesbianland”
It’s New Years Eve 1989 – a world of landlines, Jackie magazine and Opportunity Knocks – and six young women are getting ready for a night out with a difference. Tired of the unfolding of Thatcher’s regime and the homophobia and misogyny creeping through British society, these queer activists are determined to make the most of a golden opportunity that has fallen their way.
They’re a diverse group though – British, American, teachers, hookers, BBC radio admin assistants – and as they get ready for the party that is masquerading as their escapade, it is clear that their levels of confidence and commitment vary. And this is what By The Balls Theatre’s Goodbye ’89 explores, the bonds that bind this chosen family group and the pressures that threaten to pull them apart.
Deliciously forthright in its characterisations, there’s much to enjoy here, particularly in the easy interactions of a group of friends choosing to find the joy in life even while that life is kicking them in the teeth, particularly as they reckon with the effects of male violence on their lives. This ensemble ethos also allows them to explore different reasons why people might be drawn to activism and the issues that can arise when the group dynamic is challenged by the weight of societal pressure.
The 80s nostalgia may be the biggest visual cue but what hangs heaviest in the air is the respect for those that laid the path through their pioneering activism, often at great sacrifice to themselves. Alice Berry, Martha Caidan, Rebecca Fox, Michaella Moore, Catherine Mieses (on for an indisposed Ophelia J. Wisdom) and Ellen Trevaskiss all impress with their detailed character work, full of humour and humanity. Goodbye ’89 may be fictional but it sings with truthful pride.