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Lost Boys & Fairies review – a beautiful gay adoption extravaganza

Rebecca Nicholson

Mon 3 Jun 2024 17.00 EDT

You’re going to need so many tissues … Sion Daniel Young and Fra Fee in Lost Boys & Fairies. Photograph: Simon Ridgway/BBC/Duck Soup Films

Gabriel and Andy adopt a boy in this incredibly emotional drama. It has a huge heart, big musical numbers and plenty of weepy moments – you will be in floods of tears

Lost Boys & Fairies is so determined to make you cry that if it were on a more commercial channel, each part would be bookended by a sponsored ad for big-brand tissues. It tells a sad, beautiful story about adoption and, crucially, about adopters, with an admirable devotion to the love and the pain involved in each aspect of the process. It has a huge heart and a clear eye on melodrama: no episode goes without a musical number. It is a lot of things, all at once, and mostly, it holds it all together with panache.

Gabriel (Sion Daniel Young) and Andy (Fra Fee) have been a couple for eight years, and we join them as they are being interviewed at home by social worker Jackie (a fabulous Elizabeth Berrington): “So, boys, tell me: why do you want to adopt?” The question underpins the entire series. There is the rote answer, about providing a child with love, about wanting to give back, and then there are the real answers, which are complex and nuanced and require an examination of each man’s past and present, and potentially their futures, too. Gabe says that it feels more like therapy than an interview, and for him in particular, there is a lot of work to do.

Gabe is a performance artist (“not a drag queen”), and Andy an accountant, so clearly they would get different results on the Myers-Briggs test. But their differences are what makes the relationship sing. Andy is more gung-ho about the adoption, while Gabe is nervous, tightly wound and sticking to the strict parameters he has set for himself: no boys, because he knows the cruelty of boys from his own childhood, and no child over six. Naturally, when they do meet a child, under slightly surprising circumstances, he does not fit neatly into those boundaries.

Over a jumpy timeline, which cuts between Gabe’s childhood, troubled past and nervy present, we learn more about what made him the man he is today. Andy is much more solid, and less the star of the show, though Fee does a stellar job of humanising the metaphorical straight-man role. We get glimpses of Andy’s past, but really, this series devotes its attentions to rounding out Gabe, and you can tell where the affections of the writer reside. This is a portrait of Gabe’s trauma, and the corrosive effects of growing up under Thatcher’s hateful anti-gay rhetoric, with a strict, religious father, and a tendency to seek out extreme, risky pleasures. This is partially a narrative of queer pain, which may be relatable for some, and difficult for others, who would prefer that LGBT+ drama moves away from a focus on trauma and shame. But everyone will find their own path here, and I suspect that is the point.

When it directs its attentions towards the adoption process, it finds something special, and illuminates the details that may not be familiar to everyone watching. It explains the details of how a looked-after child might leave his or her foster family, for example, in a lovely montage that reveals it to be a staggered, gradual and stage-managed process. Jake, the boy who finds his way into Andy and Gabe’s orbit, has been written off as “feral” and “unadoptable”; needless to say, a drama which wears its heart on its sleeve like this is not about to let that stand. There is a dark humour and raw honesty to Andy and Gabe’s journey, which is neither a fairytale nor a fable.

There is a lot of focus on language, and here, this is cerebral, emotional and genuinely fascinating. Gabe was raised speaking Welsh, but does not want to teach his child the language, as he found that as a gay man, he felt excluded by both its rules and the imposition of its rules by his father. This bleeds into a broader issue of storytelling and how we imagine and present our lives to others. The stories Gabe tells Jackie are not quite the stories he tells Andy, which are not quite the stories he tells himself.

Though it has undertones of quiet melancholy, in the end, it is an extravagant drama, unafraid to belt out the high notes and play to the crowd. There are real musical numbers, at Neverland, the aptly named club that Gabe calls home, and there are imaginary musical numbers which nudge the story along, Men Up-style. It is a showy, theatrical production, which suits the high drama, and the high drama really does push its way to the front as the story progresses. For those watching weekly, hold on to those tissues, and for those putting themselves through the binge-watch, get them ready, because you’re going to need them.

• Lost Boys & Fairies aired on BBC One and is on iPlayer now.

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