The theatre of the gay

Today is the opening day of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. I am volunteering as front of house at one of the locations – the Pearse Centre. Which I like, as rumours abound, that Paddy Pearse was a sodomite.Therefore in my mind this is a fitting venue. The other festival locations are the Teacher’s Club; Players’ Theatre; Cobalt Cafe and Outhouse Theatre.
The programme is packed, with 2 different full length shows at each venue, each evening. Each show has a seven night run, and fhen the second week the programme changes completely.

As today is a holiday there were also matinees. I am currently on a break having seen two shows already, and I am scarfing down a portion of garlic chips and cheese from Eddie Rockets before rushing back to sparkle at the audience before the door opens for the evening shows.

The first show today was ‘The Ref’- a musical comedy about the marriage equality referendum lat year. It was performed by the Acting Out group – a group that told me last December, that I could apply to be a member in October. October 2016 that is. I had to flounce out and join another group that had a more lenient membership admission policy.

The show was entertaining. The cast were clearly having a blast and their enthusiasm was infectious. The highlight for me was the character of Deirdre Kilbride – chairwoman of the fictional Mammies For God group.

There is something about this subject matter that angers me to this day – the shameful horror of having a vote about the civil rights of a minority. I am still dumbfounded that anyone thought that this was an appropriate topic to vote on – that minority rights were to be determined by whim of the electorate. Everyone is rightfully proud of the result but I think it is a matter of shame for Ireland that they put the gay community on trial in that manner – and excuses about constitutional requirements for a vote on civil rights, hold no water for me.

On the other hand when I look back 12 months ago, the day after the vote, as the results were trickling in early, and it became obvious that it was  landslide ‘yes’, I still find myself welling up. At least people had voted the right way – the only way. I suppose in a sense the result is the nearest thing to an apology the gay community is ever going to get from the country for the monstrous manner in which it was treated for decades.

‘The Ref’ captured a sense that atmosphere of exhilaration and relief. It was let down somewhat (and only in places) by an occasional ropiness in the script – it seemed to want to tick all the boxes, and let all the cliches get a voice. This was only in places however and I guess a little bit more editing would solve that. A solid and enjoyable show.

The second show I saw was ‘Waking Beauty’ by the Minerva Collective from England. This was a work in progress, although it felt like a finished piece. It was a Sleeping Beauty style story of an ambitious mother who sends her daughter to the ball, to try to persuade the handsome prince to make her his bride. Unknownst to Mommie Dearest, the daughter is in love with a travelling vagabond woman who will not settle down. A spell is cast, the daughter marries the prince. But then the vagabond woman returns. Shenanigans ensue,

The story was typical fairy tale – involving spells and vengeance, love, loss and redemption. Although the lesbian storyline was new. And thankfully it remained a happy ever after story – although arguably not for the handsome prince. The cast of four was very strong – particularly the mother. She gave a performance where you could sense the rage simmering beneath the repressed exterior. The script was solid. I’d recommend it.

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