THEATRE REVIEW: Queers starring Russell Tovey & Fionn Whitehead

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHERE: Old Vic

WHEN: 28/7, runs to 31/7

Queers is a series of eight monologues which marks 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 began the decriminalisation process for homosexuality between men and celebrates the British gay experience over the last century.

  • Read on for reasons including when each monologue will be shown on BBC4

Each of eight 15-minute monologues will be shown on BBC4 at 10pm between Monday and Thursday, 31/7 to 3/8.

Queers has been curated by Mark Gatiss and on 28/7 at the Old Vic we see the first four of these monologues, including The Man on the Platform by the Sherlock author and star, who is sitting on the end of the same row as us.

Is this relevant to the queer lives those of us are living in the audience now? Well, US President Donald Trump last week banned transgender service people and, with The Handmaid’s Tale concluding on Channel 4 this week, the issue of minority rights and a history that needs chronicled, not forgotten, seems ever more important.

We last saw Jack Derges in the West End in The Boys In The Band, also starring Gatiss, and here he plays a First World War soldier who shares a moment of freedom with a higher ranking officer before the pair are separated. It’s a tender love story with a great motif about a ‘certain liquidity of the eye’ about love found but not acted upon and provides a gentle start to the afternoon. Ben Whishaw plays the part in the TV version which begins the series at 10pm 31/7.

Fionn Whitehead is currently starring in film of the moment Dunkirk and here he plays  a young gay man affected by the 90s age of consent vote as he campaigns outside Parliament. It’s a twitchy, infectious performance that we absolutely loved from our first row seat.

Russell Tovey stars in Brian Fillis’ 1987-set More Anger and it’s the story of a gay actor who finds he’s in demand, then in the public eye in a dull part and out of favour later. He’s currently playing in Angels In America just up the road at the National Theatre  and as an out gay actor with US success it’s a delight to see him here. Showing 1/8.

Also showing Tuesday is Rebecca Front as a mismatched 1957 wife in Missing Alice by Jon Bradfield. At the Old Vic she’s performed by Sara Crowe and there’s a compelling piece to be expressed here which we think Sara gets closer to than the author.

Ian Gelder (pictured above) has the funniest lines of the afternoon in the 1967-set I Miss The War by Matthew Baldwin about a gay man who mourns the legislation change because it has soured the excitement of his life. The ‘My arse was snapping like a Venus flytrap’ line earned a spontaneous round of applause. It airs Wednesday 2/8.

Also showing 2/8 is Kadiff Kirwan in The Safest Spot In Town by Keith Jarrett which focuses on 1941 and the clubs a gay black man is welcome in and those he’s not in war-torn Soho. Kirwan is better than we’ve ever seen him in anything and the audience loves him. Particularly fellow star Fisayo Akinade who is sitting immediately behind us.

Next up we have Gemma Whelan (Game Of Thrones) in Jackie Clune’s The Perfect Gentleman, which screens Thursday 3/8. It’s funnier than its predecessor, Clunes is here also, and it tells the tale of a woman in 1929 who dresses as a man to woo women.

Finally on 28/7 at the Old Vic we see Mark Bonnar in Something Borrowed by Gareth McLean which is a gay man’s reflection as he writes his speech before his wedding. It screens last Thursday 3/8 and is a fitting close to the celebration of the many gay lives lived. Alan Cumming appears in the TV version.

50 years since legislation decriminalised (partially) homosexuality it might be easy to be complacent but, as we’re currently seeing in the US, progress can be overturned at the stroke of a pen. LBGTQ life needs living but also chronicling. Better than Alan Bennett? Quite possibly.

  • Picture by via YouTube courtesy BBC4. Tickets
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