‘Billy Elliot’ Writer’s Gay Opera Will Go On

6a00d8341c730253ef015433838b17970c-800wi It's been a roller coaster of a week for Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall's new opera, Beached.

The piece, meant to debut later this month, was abruptly canceled because a participating school objected to some of its gay content. Hall (pictured) claimed they were discriminating, the opera company, Opera North, distanced itself from the mess, and the school was forced to deny allegations of homophobia.

Now it appears all parties are on the same page, because Beached will indeed go on, although with a few changes: The word "queer" will be replaced with "gay" in the following rhyme, "Of course I’m queer / That’s why I left here,”  to become “Of course I’m gay/That’s why I went away.”

The school, Bay Primary School, released a statement lauding the news, saying, "We are delighted to announce that the revisions which the school requested have now been made and the author has addressed the points raised by the school.”

The final libretto is now an age appropriate text which was all the school had requested. The play retained the inclusion of a gay character, Professor Sewerby, who remains central to the play’s dramatic message. Neither the council, school or Opera North have ever expressed any concern over the inclusion of a gay character, only some of the language and tone around the character’s identity. The writer has now addressed this.

Opera North described compromise as the result of "intense negotiations behind the scenes with all parties.”


  1. ralph says

    From where I come from, calling someone a queer is still considered an insult (as it is to me). And no, I don’t care if you think it’s fashionable or politically correct.

  2. Paul R says

    Seems like an improvement for a performance aimed at children. Our sexual/gender/identity politics confuse many adults, so expecting understanding from children was a bit much.

  3. TampaZeke says

    If the school’s objection was only to the word “queer” and not to the character being openly gay, then I entirely agree with them. The problem is, as I commented several times, the school and Opera North weren’t being AT ALL specific about what it was that they found offensive and what changes they were asking for. If they had been clear about the fact that they thought the word “queer” was age inappropriate but supported the character being an openly gay man, which now seems to be the case, then they would have had a lot more support from the gay community and the community at large, from the very beginning. I was suspecting that this was the case but I couldn’t get a straight answer from Opera North about what EXACTLY was the contention and what EXACTLY were they asking for.

  4. Henry Holland says

    “Our sexual/gender/identity politics confuse many adults, so expecting understanding from children was a bit much”

    Oh for f’s sake, stop it with the “Oh noes, the children! WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!” nonsense. This is 2011, not 1951, the average 10 year old these days is exposed to more of the real world and all its issues than me and my peers ever were back in the 60’s.

    The point is not that a 9 year old can discuss the fine points of gay marriage or the nuances of gender identity, but that they can conceptualize a man who loves other men because guess what? per another post on here, they’re more than likely to have seen gay men on a British soap like “EastEnders” or Captain Jack loving Ianto on “Torchwood” or David Beckham / Ben Cohen being pro-gay. Not every place in the world treats kids like precious little snowflakes like the US does.

    The new lyrics scan better too.

  5. Yuki says

    @Henry Holland:

    It’s not an issue of “protecting the children”. If even adults–whose minds are generally much more developed than those of younger people–have troubles understanding the language that we use, who’s to say that children would understand it better? It’s certainly a possibility, but changing the lyrics to something more clear isn’t a case of “protecting the children”, and neither was the comment you were responding to. Calm down.

    For the record, though, Torchwood is definitely not a children’s show. I applaud the romance between Jack and Ianto, but it’s not meant for children in the first place.

  6. Randy says

    What’s wrong with queer? It’s a great word, and banning it simply reinforces that there’s something wrong with being queer.

    Further, the meter of the thing is all thrown off with their replacement text. Ugh. Music by committee. :6

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