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Brook Tate’s Birthmarked: Review

Home » Reviews » Brook Tate’s Birthmarked: Review

Resist the urge to bolt the door and close the curtains when you spot the words “Jehovah’s Witness” in the promotional blurb for Brook Tate’s confessional show, “Birthmarked.” If anything, think of this as your opportunity to turn the tables; to knock on the door of a (lapsed) Witness and stride right in. Be assured of a warm welcome.

“Birthmarked” offers up excellent musicianship, catchy songs, some beautiful vocals, some laughs, some tears, and lots and lots of fabulous campness.


Less a musical, more a ‘new concept gig’, “Birthmarked” is Tate’s account of life as a young gay man raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. Delivered in direct address with humour and panache, punctuated with some fine original compositions, the telling, as you might imagine, is not just one of self-discovery, but of cruelty, poignancy and loss.

Cleanliness may be next to godliness but, in the view of the three Elders who “de-fellowship” him, on the scale of debauchery, homosexuality is right next to bestiality. Once ‘de-fellowshipped,’ the sinner must not be spoken to – even by friends and close family members – no matter that in Brook Tate’s case, he was still living with his family. He gives a heart-rending account of helping his sister unpack her shopping in mutually tearful silence.

The artsy scene of Bristol and renewed contact with uncle Adrian (himself long de-fellowshipped) provide Tate’s first steps along his own road to a kind of salvation.


Gayle the Whale (voiced by excellent percussionist, Eva Redman) is both nemesis and foil for Tate’s narrative, eventually tempting this gay Jonah (and the rest of his band) into her belly – from which they will emerge… even more fabulous and outrageously camp (of course!)

Tate is not afraid to ad-lib and improvise – nor should he be, he does it with verve and shameless wit. The 90 minute (no interval) show is good value for money. Stick around for the tap dancing zebra (in platform heels).

Along with Redman, the other four musicians (Tom Bonson, Samuel Fox, Sam Fox – yes, two of them – and Eddie Benfield) clearly buy into the project, playing with passion and unafraid to be more than a little fabulous in their own right.


Although there is a reference to sex in China (Tate was there for religious reasons) it’s done with a nod and a wink (and no jokes about missionaries and positions). Parents will, of course, use their own judgement, but there’s nothing here remotely like Olly Alexander’s Eurovision bump and grind.

The encore song (dedicated to his Grandma Maude) is the most touching and most beautifully sung number of the evening. Tate has a truly lovely tenor voice that can soar into a countertenor reminiscent of Jeff Buckley.

He finishes the night by clambering down to chat to the audience (in full regalia). A little boy on his birthday and his even littler sister are rightly thrilled by this close encounter. Charm and human warmth ooze from him, even done-up as a mohican zebra.

Two shows to go at the Lowry. Go see!


Birthmarked is at The Lowry, Salford from 29-31 May 2024.

Written by
Martin Thomasson

A winner (with Les Smith) of the Manchester Evening News award for Best New Play, Martin taught script-writing at the universities of Bolton and Salford, before becoming an adjudicator and mentor for the 24:7 theatre festival. Over the years, in addition to drama, Martin has seen more ballet and contemporary dance than is wise for a man with two left feet, and much more opera than any other holder of a Grade 3 certificate in singing.

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Martin Written by Martin Thomasson