London is a reliable city for a short weekend visit. So close and well connected to Ireland that it’s possible to take a Friday to Sunday visit and still have ample opportunity to have a good time. It is too vast a metropolis to absorb in a single visit, so it’s better to select your intentions for each visit and focus on those alone. The rest of the city will still be there when you return. I have visited the city dozens of times – but never for longer than three nights. It remains an ever-exciting destination.
My trip last weekend was from Shannon to Stansted Airport in the Republic of Essex. The flight from Shannon Airport was on time and upon arrival I boarded the National Express which dropped me outside Bethnal Green tube station. Located in the East End of London this feels like my part of town having visited on multiple occasions over the past decade. I walked along the Regent’s Canal to the house in Shoreditch where my friend lives, resisting the urge to yell ‘You ain’t my muvva!!! Yes I AAAAHM’ a la Kat Slater in Eastenders, at various passers-by. I felt that might be slightly inappropriate.
The sun was shining and it was 7pm. We strolled over to Broadway Market – a Victorian market street that divides Shoreditch from Hackney, located beside the canal. There’s a variety of cafes and bars and food stalls on this road- but not one of them are part of a chain. We chose the Koya-Ko restaurant where a rice bowl cost an eye-watering fourteen pounds and a beer cost eight quid. Cost of living crisis etc.
It was in 1999 that I first travelled to the land of the movies – the United States of America. My destination was California – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego to be precise. In the quarter century since that trip, I have revisited the country several times, usually to the East Coast. However, I have always harboured an inclination to return West. It just seemed too far though – involving an eleven-hour flight from Ireland – or too expensive. But still so appealing. When Aer Lingus had a sale last November, I got a shiver of anticipation when I noticed that a return flight from Dublin to San Francisco cost a mere three hundred euros, with a March travel date . I bought it instantly. Prices like those are rare. It was time to make my triumphant return to the city by the Bay.
My memories of the city were magical. Being a 24-year-old gayling on my first trip there, it was a pilgrimage. The Greeks may have invented the Gay, but San Francisco had become one of the world’s major gay capitals since World War 2 when soldiers returning from war decided to remain in the coastal city rather than return to the Flyover Land of their birthplace. I travelled back then, with some friends from Dublin. We partied hard. I had a weeklong affair with a man from Virginia named Topher who I met in the Midnight Sun bar on my first night out. He introduced me to Jägermeister – that grotesque liqueur with mind altering powers. I went to work with him one day – he was a professional dog walker with a side business in selling marijuana to San Franciscan lesbians – the most Californian job I can think of. I bought the first of Armistead Maupin ‘Tales of the city; books in a second-hand bookshop in the Haight-Ashbury district – the district in town where the 1960s flower power, hippie movement began. My memories of that time are as golden as the bridge.
The flight to San Francisco was unpleasant as all long haul, economy flights tend to be. My traveling companion was arriving from London so despite the fact he had departed before I did, the pre-clearance for the US that happens in Ireland meant our arrival times were coordinated. After dumping my bags in my grotty Fillmore hotel (San Francisco is one of the most outrageously priced cities in the USA) we made our way to the Castro where we dined on Indian food and quaffed some refreshing G&Ts in Twin Peaks gay bar (this bar opened in the 1970s and was noteworthy for the fact that it had big open street level windows so passers-by could look in, and patrons could look out). It was emblematic of gay liberation – gay people were no longer banished to dingy, windowless basement – and the opening of the culture. Having invested in a public transport Muni card, we got the bus home and retired quite early – jetlag induced exhaustion was acute.
This May bank holiday Monday sees the welcome return of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, for the first time since 2019. Now in its 19th year, the pandemic of the past two years had thwarted its occurrence for two years. It’s back for the next two weeks, featuring twenty-three productions in various venues around the city. Check out the 2022 programme on http://www.gaytheatre.ie.
For my matinee viewing today I went to the Main Hall in the Teachers’ Club on Parnell Square to see a comedy double bill ‘Quarantine’ and ‘Three Queens Stuck in Dublin’.
Over the past two nights I have watched the new Russell T. Davies show ‘It’s a sin’ on Channel 4. Davies found fame in 1999 with the revolutionary ‘Queer as folk’ TV show which documented the lives of a group of gay men in Manchester. The show was radical in that the characters were not villains or victims – but instead well rounded individuals living unapologetic lives; and engaging in the sex and drugs and rock and roll hedonism of urban, young, gay men. I was in my early twenties and living in Dublin at the time in a flat-share with two other gay guys. Our lives may not have been quite as raucous as the characters on screen, but we had our fun. The show held a mirror up to the lives we were living. Ir was refreshing that the emphasis was not on the message that being gay kills you. The big disease with the little name hadn’t gone away but by the late 1990s, a HIV diagnosis was no longer an automatic death sentence. ‘Queer as folk’ reflected this change in outlook. I loved the programme.
Now twenty years after huge success with ‘Doctor Who’ Davies has revisited the gay life. ‘It’s a sin’ tells the story of a group of young gay men in a house share in London in the 1980s, just as news is filtering through from the US about a ‘gay cancer’ that is ripping through the male, gay community and killing everyone who gets a diagnosis. There’s Colin – a sweet boy from Wales who works in a tailor’s; Roscoe – estranged from his Nigerian family because of his homosexuality ,and working in a bar; Ash – a school teacher; Colin – an aspiring actor from the Isle of Wight; and Jill – an actress of unspecified sexual orientation.
Once upon a time (in the 1990s) in a hemisphere far, far away there appeared a holy trinity of outsider films from the country of Australia. All featured the legendary actor Bill Hunter, and each of them is among my all-time favourite films. ‘Strictly Ballroom’; ‘The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ exist individually as brilliant films, but as a grouping is an incomparable troika of cinematic brilliance. All three have been adapted as stage musicals. This week the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin is staging ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’. Last night I attended the show. Continue reading Musical review: ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’→
‘Faultline’ is a new site-specific, immersive co-production between ANU and the Gate Theatre. Set in a Georgian building at number 11 Parnell Square East, the audience of twelve is divided into two groups and placed among the performers in a re-imagined gay bar; in the headquarters of the Irish Gay Rights movement in the early 1980s – which was in reality located in a few rooms in a similar building on the other side of the square; and in a cottage (a men’s public lavatory which was how many gay men hooked up with each other in those criminal days.) Continue reading Theatrical: ‘Faultline’→
I will not be in attendance at Dublin Pride this this year – I am travelling abroad on the weekend, which will be the reason for my absence. However if I think about it, it feels like I am dodging a bullet. Continue reading Pride – what a shame→
Availing of my participant pass, I hauled myself to the Pearse Centre for the 7.30pm show at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. ‘The little pink book of masculinity’ by John Best; and ‘The measure of a man’ by Gavin Roach are a pair of one-man shows from England and Australia respectively. Both are deeply personal accounts of the life experiences of the two men, who perform their own work. Best tells the story of how arbitrarily cruel the gay scene can be to a young gay man who doesn’t fit within the parameters of what is acceptable. To be embraced as a fully functional young gay man it appears you must be beautiful and muscles and absolutely not camp. Our hero does not measure up to this ideal so he struggles. It was a moving piece watching the characters with these struggles – especially when your value is influenced by by what some toxic app like Grindr tells you is hot. Being young and gay is still a bit of a minefield to navigate your way through. At the age of forty and above the superficial judgement is even more harsh, but hopefully our hero will care less about it by that point. The show features ‘Whatta man’ by Salt ‘n’ Pepa and En Vogue which is a welcome addition to any show – including Hamlet. Continue reading IDGTF Reviews: ‘The Little Pink Book of Masculinity’ and ‘The Measure of a Man’→
I entered the grounds of Trinity College with trepidation. My destination was the Players’ Theatre. My mission was to see ‘All I see is you’ by Kathrine Smith. My problem – well the Taoiseach had been to see this show the previous night; and one of the actors in the piece was an alumnus of the TV shows ‘Shameless’ and ‘The Bill’ – Ciaran Griffiths. I was unsure whether I’d be able to source a seat with my standby festival pass. This show seemed like a hot ticket. Thankfully as I was early to the party, I was granted entrance. I made a beeline for the front row. Continue reading IDGTF Review: ‘All I see is you’ and ‘Bingo’→