Queers attempts to broadly examine the world encountered by members of the LGBT community living in our at times harsh modern world, though really this play challenges the fact that I even use the words ‘community’ and ‘member’ in the first place. Unfortunately, they tend to be what we say without thinking, but surely if there is anything to come out of watching Queers it is the thought that we need to be encouraging a movement away from any terms alluding to separation or ‘different’ communities. Part of the point is that that this group shouldn’t need to have to declare itself a group.
The various characters here try to adjust to worlds around them that are often less than accepting and this is the overarching theme; it examines, through several intermingled stories, the difficulties and the prejudices that still exist, and the conflicts that arise.
Carol – a ‘mostly’ vegan liable to fall off the wagon when things go awry – comes first. She is falling in love with passionate PJ, who is throwing herself into her ‘cause’ and is always late home. The conflict here is played out nicely and with irony as tension increases when PJ’s activism, albeit something that could help matters in the long run actually gets in the way of the two characters trying to simply love each other. Their relationship flounders and at the climactic moment Carol declares poetically ‘I want to be in love without having to be queer all the fucking time’. It’s a brilliant moment and you are always with these characters, whenever they reappear.
Another scene, perhaps the most absorbing of the play, between Old Tom and Danny (I believe I have the characters correct here – although there was so much doubling I stand corrected if I have confused them) was rendered delicately by Declan Cooke and Richard Watkins. Watkins’ characterisations of the ultra camp Danny and earlier on the Céline Dion obsessed Blackpool drag queen Patricia were a hoot to watch.
The set was as basic as it needed to be, and props amounted to a couple of chairs, a carrot and a carton of hummus. The lighting by Clancy Flynn efficiently denoted changes and Matt Panayides’ sound design was unobtrusive but at one juncture eerily evoked the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, an event some in the audience may remember. We also had the obligatory George Michael soundscape.
There are some genuinely funny moments in this, which balanced well against the darker situations within each story. Each of the five actors clearly defined the many varied characters in this small space and did some really good work. The piece required of them quick character changes, and each member of the cast held up admirably to this, especially considering the fact the cozy King’s Head can easily expose any missteps.
The final vignette isn’t quite as arresting as those that came before it, although it did aim to be, and in a slightly out of joint move the cast members gather for a mini finale which blurts out the message in a way it perhaps didn’t need to. The intense stage action throughout had done it already.
In a world still riddled with inequalities, too many dividing lines, too little acceptance and too many singled out communities, this play to an extent hits a button and reminds us we are perhaps a long way off from where we could or should be.
Review by James Willstrop
Writer Patrick Cash (The HIV Monologues) and director Peter Darney (5 Guys Chillin’) team up to bring this exhilarating play about LGBTQ empowerment in 2017.
Larry is 25, on a real straight stag-do looking out for the ‘laydeez’… And perhaps a lad. Trashbag Trish is a tawdry drag queen, returning to her rural after her Irish father’s death. Carol is a schoolteacher during the time of Section 28. Young Soho barman Danny is being bored by drunk Old Tom, before he listens to a story of queer liberation. Rob’s a gay Muslim snorting meph at work. And Sapphire dares to be black and trans on the streets of Dalston.
From the comfort of the closet to a drag queen at a job centre, Queers explores the modern LGBTQ experience.
Writer Patrick Cash
Director Peter Darney
Producer Em-Lou Productions & Dragonflies Theatre
Cast Stanton Plummer-Cambridge, Richard Watkins, Declan Cooke, Siân Docksey and Charly Flyte
Lighting Clancy Flynn
Sound Matt Panayides
Running 60 mins
Venue King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1QN
29th June to 1st July 2017