Con-Version, 5 Stars

Vault Festival
14th to 19th March, 2023

“Family is just another word for love. People don’t think you can choose either one. What do you think?’
Shortlisted for the VAULT Five and Charlie Hartill Award, Paper Mug Theatre presents CON-VERSION, a genre-defying exploration of conversion therapy and its effects on an ordinary British family.
Tonight is a special night – Son’s returning home after a year of conversion therapy, kindly paid for by Mother and Father. Meanwhile, Sister is hiding a devastating truth. Father is trying to get Mother to talk to him. Mother is laying her trap.
And The Neighbour’s Boy is lingering on the garden fence, hoping to see Son once more.
Filled with misdirects, thrills and spectacle, CON-VERSION illuminates the horror of trying to change your intrinsic self. A unique piece of theatre from award-winning queer writer Rory Thomas-Howes, this is a story of truth, love and our personal prisons.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 5 Stars

A predictable story about a boy falling in love and the family sending their son for conversion therapy might be the premise and you might think you know what you’ll see in this production. But, this is a far cry from a stage version of the “Latter Days” movie!

Everyone has their own reality, their own film version of what they see and experience. We have self-doubt, we’re constantly manipulated by those around us with some people making it their jobs and role in life to cause manipulation to others. The mother in this piece is so good at this that at one point I wondered if I was watching a sci-fi story about her uncanny powers. But, it’s all a metaphor. What she perceives to be her role as a mother over-rides her desire to be loved by her family. There are many families who have someone like this within their midst. It resonates loud and clear.

“Rewinding the story” is a powerful theme within this play. If you discuss something enough and re-tell something over and over, when does the truth become over-written with a story?

The writer, director and movement director have woven a production that’s incredibly powerful. It’s steered away from the obvious. It’s formed an original story about a family that hasn’t dwelled on the process of conversion therapy. It’s a highly emotive piece of theatre that packs a punch without physically punching. It doesn’t provide all answers, it leaves many questions on the table, and it highlights that someone’s idealism can be misguided and harmful to not only the recipient but also on some level to the perpetrator.

On top of all this is great technical support from the lights and sound, along with a truly outstanding cast, all of whom are phenomenally brilliant!

This is my favourite production at the Vault Festival and a highlight for my theatre experiences so far this year.

Cast and Creative Team

Written by: Rory Thomas-Howes
Directed by: Sam Edmunds
Set and Costume Design by: Lulu Tam
Sound Design by: Matteo Depares
Lighting Design by: Ben Garcia
Stage Manager: Roshan Conn
Movement Direction by: Tilda O’Grady
Produced by: Rory Thomas-Howes for Paper Mug Theatre

Mother: Ruth Redman
Son: Elan Butler
Father: Timothy Harker
Sister: Molly Rolfe
Fiancee: Phoebe Ellabani
Neighbour’s Boy: Alex Britt