Lost Boys and Fairies: Attitude visits Cardiff set of the BBC’s new primetime gay drama

Two actors from Lost Boys and Fairies kissing
Lost Boys and Fairies is on BBC One tonight at 9pm (Image: BBC One)

An ornate drag queen belts out an 80s classic to a crowd of peacocking queers in an LGBTQ+ venue for the ages: a cavernous former bank in Cardiff where the currency isn’t cash, but sequins. It’s a place of high ceilings and impressive architecture, rundown to a sublime state of ugly prettiness. Good lighting elevates everything.

If the club, Neverland, sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. It’s not a rocking Friday night, either, but an unseasonably cold day in May 2023. And that 80s classic? Not ‘Relax’ or ‘It’s Raining Men’, but the frighteningly melancholic ‘Mad World’ by Tears for Fears, which resurged in 2001 after appearing on the soundtrack to lost boy classic Donnie Darko. It’s a fitting song for this scene in BBC One drama Lost Boys and Fairies and reflects the inner life of one of its main characters, Gabriel, a gay TV antihero who’s a joy to find.

Directed by James Kent (The CaptureTestament of Youth) and produced by Duck Soup Films, BBC Cymru Wales and BBC iPlayer, Lost Boys and Fairies stars Fra Fee as Andy, and Sion Daniel Young as Gabriel. It follows this outwardly happy and stable gay couple in their thirties as they journey towards adopting a seven-year-old boy, Jake, played by Leo Harris.

Sion Young and Fra Fee play a Cardiff-based gay couple (Image: BBC One)
Sion Young and Fra Fee play a Cardiff-based gay couple (Image: BBC One)

But in this Cardiff-set three-parter, the clue is in the title. The couple’s decision to adopt dredges up a truckload of unresolved trauma – mostly Gabriel’s. We see him as an infant smacked by his dad for wearing a dress, as a public toilet-frequenting schoolboy hallucinating demons while praying the gay away, and finally as an inebriated adult, fucking the pain away in a sling.

The title inspired by J.M. Barrie’s classic fairy tale, the series’ major themes include the passing of time and growing up, often with great difficulty, as a queer person. And, of course, the pop psychological concept of Peter Pan syndrome anecdotally prevalent among gay men. (Oh, you’re going to deny it?!)

One of the ways Gabriel handles his trauma is through sex. Suffice to say, his relationship with it isn’t the healthiest. Imagine Nathan from Queer as Folk 25 years later after a few wrong turns and you are part way there.

“It’s been a really interesting process,” says Daf James, the series’ writer, of the sex scenes. “Because it’s primetime BBC One, what I really wanted to do is to tell a queer story without compromise to a mainstream audience. And taking that audience with me on that journey.” Prepare for harnesses and dildos. “We’ve had an amazing intimacy coordinator, David Thackeray,” adds James. “Working with David has been extraordinary, just in terms of how comfortable he made not just the performers, but us, the crew, the set.”

Sion Young’s character Gabriel is a performance artist (Image: BBC One)
Sion Young’s character Gabriel is a performance artist (Image: BBC One)

Of course sexual freedom is not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re being safe, and are doing it for the right reasons. Being a lost boy can be fun, can’t it? I ask the following question aloud in Fee’s trailer: “Why shouldn’t we enjoy an extended adolescence?”

“That’s very true,” replies the 34-year-old, who has acted in the Oscar-winning 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables, Marvel show Hawkeye and stage hit Cabaret. “That’s possibly where Andy and Gabriel differ. They both have issues with their parents – Andy’s dad is absent, but he wants to be a good father in the way that he didn’t have one. Andy is fully ready to embrace the responsibility of parenthood. This is conjecture, but maybe Gabriel isn’t quite ready.”

“He’s realising that there’s a lot of baggage that he thought he dealt with that he hasn’t,” is how Young, 32, who plays Gabriel, describes it over lunch. The star, whose previous screen credits include The Left Behind and Deceit, continues, “That’s causing problems on every front. He tries to sort of ignore it, but things just keep cropping up. And actually, his relationship with his dad, his relationship with Andy, his relationship with himself as a younger Gabriel rears its head, and he has to manage it.”

For Gabriel, the pressures of potential parenthood, paired with unthinkable personal tragedy, reignite old addictions: drink, drugs, anonymous sex and, most insidiously of all, self-doubt. None of which is helpful for a person facing a painstakingly forensic adoption panel. A person who, it’s clear, makes for a resoundingly fantastic father figure while sober. It’s bitterly ironic, then, that Gabriel seems further behind on the road to self-acceptance than rainbow family relatives half his age. Take this spiky line of dialogue uttered by scarily hip young theyby Celyn, directed at Gabriel’s inability to understand pronouns. “You used to be radical. Now one sniff of parenthood and you’ve turned fucking straight.”

“Young queers are so angry all of the time,” Gabriel later complains of this epic read. “Cancelling people. Decimating careers on Twitter. We used to be attacked by straights for being too queer. Now the queers are attacking us for not being queer enough … How the hell am I supposed to guide Jake through all of this when I don’t understand the world anymore?” Spoiler alert: he and Celyn – played by Shaheen Jafargholi – kiss and make up in the end.

This is an excerpt from a longer feature running in Attitude issue 359, out in shops and on the Attitude app on 27 June 2024. To order issues of Attitude from our online store, click here.

Lost Boys and Fairies airs on BBC One tonight at 9pm. It also available to watch on iPlayer now.

The post Lost Boys and Fairies: Attitude visits Cardiff set of the BBC’s new primetime gay drama appeared first on Attitude.