One of the biggest, or at least the most talked about things to happen on the London theatre scene recently was Dame Helen Mirren rushing out of the theatre where she was playing Lizzie (that’s Her Maj QE II to you and me), to tell a troupe of gay drummers to ‘Shut the fuck up,’ or some other potty-mouthed tirade. It made headlines in all of the national press and gave LGBT festival, As One in the Park, the kind of PR that the organisers could only dream of. We wish them, and Dame Helen, the best.
Although it’s coming to the end of its London season, there’s still time to catch the twentieth anniversary staging of Beautiful Thing which was exemplary on every level. Not only did all the acting impress, but Jonathan Harvey’s play has certainly stood the test of time. The casting was spot on, with Suranne Jones delivering a tour de force performance as Sandra. Newcomers Jake Davies as Jamie and Danny-Boy Hatchard as Ste, shone as the two boys – their awkward, nervous discovery of newly-found love was unerringly charted, and they both gave intelligent, searing performances. Indeed there was no weak link in Nikolai Foster’s production which, in Colin Richmond’s minutely observed designs, faultlessly evokes both the headiness and realism of that sultry summer on the Thamesmead Estate. Joyous, uplifting and unbearably poignant, this 20th anniversary deserves to be seen, and if you can’t catch it in London, it goes on tour from the end of the month. Unmissable.
There are a couple of fabulous gay performers making their way to the Soho Theatre – the first of these is the irrepressible Jonny Woo. How would you describe Jonny? Drag/performance artist/polymath – he’s been terrorising (in a good way) fringe theatre throughout the UK for many years, and is one third of the unholy triumvirate responsible for Gay Bingo which is more a force of nature than a mere eyes-down event. In Jonny Woo: Wonder Woo-Man, Jonny recalls pivotal points throughout his life including idolising Wonder Woman at the age of six, and being seduced at the age of sixteen by the pianist at the local am-dram society. Expect the unexpected.
This year the musical and operatic world are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth. A homosexualist of note, much of his output was written for his lover, the tenor Peter Pears. One of the most demanding roles he created was that of Aschenbach in his final opera, Death in Venice, and ENO are reviving their much-lauded staging next month. Deborah Warner’s production, in Tom Pye’s evocative designs, stars John Graham-Hall who created a sensation in the role when this production travelled to the world’s most prestigious opera house, La Scala Milan. This revival promises to be one of the highlights of the operatic season, so book now.