When I wrote What’s Wrong With Angry? in 1992 the age of consent for gay men was twenty one. For heterosexuals, it was sixteen. The infamous Section 28 legislation forbids the “promoting of a positive image of homosexuality”, especially in schools.
What’s Wrong With Angry? opens at a small fringe theatre in Fulham – the LOST theatre. With a cast and crew of nearly twenty, all unpaid, the play opens to an audience of six. It plays for two weeks to similar sized audiences until the gay press discover it and give it rave reviews. It sells out the final week. Sir Ian McKellen is spotted in the returns queue!
The play returns for three weeks at the Oval House where it sells out. The run is extended for an extra week at BAC studio. On the last night, a film director (Simon Shore) and Producer (Stephen Taylor) queue for return tickets and get the last two.
After the show, Simon and Steven approach me about the possibility of a film version. It’s an emotional night, as the news that Derek Jarman has died filters through. It is also the day before the crucial Common’s vote on the age of consent.
The next day, The House of Commons votes to reduce the gay age of consent to eighteen, thereby still criminalizing sixteen and seventeen year old gay men. In the ‘riot’ that ensues outside the Houses Of Parliament, Tom Wisdom (the first Steven Carter), and David Paul West (the first Kevin) are filmed chanting for justice, and appear as the first image on News At Ten.
I was commissioned by Stephen Taylor to write a film version of the play. Simon Shore is to direct.
What’s Wrong With Angry? plays a sell out season at the BAC main house.
Stephen Taylor is trying to get funding for the new film (working title, Sweet Sixteen). Simon and I continue to work on the script.
What’s Wrong With Angry? transfers to the West End at the Arts Theatre. It plays for eight weeks.
The play goes to Copenhagen, this time with David Paul West as Steven Carter. It plays to capacity houses. Meanwhile funding for the film is still not forthcoming, all avenues seemingly blocked. I continue to work on the script.
The Arts Council of England, through the Lottery, fund most of the film which is given a green light three years after it was first commissioned.
Casting begins. Simon and I are worried, as an actor good enough, yet young enough to play the demanding role of Steven Carter on screen doesn’t seem to exist. Then a young man called Ben Silverstone walks through the door.
Tony Blair becomes prime minister, pledging to reform anti-gay legislation, including Section 28.
The summer of 1997
The film, now called Get Real, with Ben as Steven Carter, begins filming on location in Basingstoke for six weeks.
The finished film has multiple screenings in an attempt to find a distributor.
Get Real premiers publicly at the Edinburgh Film Festival. It wins the Audience award. Paramount Classic buy it for distribution.
The House of Commons votes to equalise the age of consent. The decision is overturned by the House of Lords. The House of Lords also rejects attempts to repeal Section 28.
Get Real enjoys huge success at the Sundance film festival. It also shows at other Film Festivals around the world to great approval.
Get Real wins both the Jury and audience awards at the Dinard film Festival in France.
Get Real is the closing film at the LLAG film festival. Ben, Simon and I embark on a promotional tour of America. I was asked in interviews why the world still needs “gay issue films” in a more enlightened world. On returning to my hotel I turned on CNN and saw live pictures of the bombing of a gay bar in London’s Soho in which four people were killed and many more badly injured.
Get Real opens in the USA. As I walk up the red carpet in LA with Ben and Simon, I remembered the opening night at the LOST theatre playing to six people.
Get Real has its British opening in… Basingstoke.
Get Real opens in Australia and wins the Mardi Gras award.
The first Basingstoke Pilgrimage. Stacy and Simon and I are delighted and to see how the film has affected so many people
What’s Wrong With Angry? plays in LA.
Get Real continues to open in various territories. More and more people visit Pete Shaw’s inspirational web site, bensilverstone.net.
The second Basingstoke pilgrimage. Stacy, Simon, Ben and I attend. Once again we are overwhelmed at the response.
In the mean time, the LOST theatre has been demolished and Tony Blair has invoked the Parliament Act to force through the equalisation of the age of consent.
Section 28 remains on the statute books.
Gay writing of any kinds is still rare, though the position is getting better. Funding for gay projects is still almost impossible to get (Get Real took three years to fund). What’s Wrong With Angry? reached fruition because of the generosity of spirit and talent of all involved, who worked for nothing. Without that play, Get Real would not have existed.