With nine performances every night during the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival, it’s impossible to know which shows you should check out. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered.
This article was originally published in the May 2017 Issue of GCN (Issue 329) which is available to read online here.
Over two weeks in May, in five venues across Dublin, with nine performances each night, the 17th Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival will present a smörgåsbord of diverse theatrical performances, brought to you by theatre companies from Ireland, the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Mexico and Scotland. With so much to see, Ciara McGrattan picks some of the choicest offerings.
The first of my picks of this year’s Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival comes all the way from Utah, the most Mormon-y state in the whole of the United States. Steven Fale’s autobiographical Confessions of a Mormon Boy (The Teacher’s Club, May 1-6, 7:30pm, matinee May 6, 2:30pm) tells of his eventful upbringing as a sixth-generation Utah Mormon, as he experiences a marriage, attempted ‘ex-gay’ treatment, and excommunication, before finally descending into a spiral of prostitution and drugs. From clean-cut Utah Mormon to Manhattan rent- boy, Fale’s rollercoaster journey (whittled from his original stand-up routine) is cataloged here in hilarious and poignant detail. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Fale said he was inspired to write the play during his excommunication from the church for the “practice of homosexuality”.
“After all of the reparative therapy I had undergone, and all the sacrifice and service to the church and my family, I found it all so fantastical and barbaric. It was clear that someone needed to write this.”
Confessions of a Mormon Boy is the first in what eventually became a trilogy of works (including Missionary Position and Prodigal Dad) about Fale’s relationship with the Church of the Latter Day Saints and as well as that with his two children.
Joto! Confessions of a Mexican Outcast (Outhouse from May 8-13, 7:30pm, matinee Saturday May 13, 4pm), written and performed by Carlos Manuel, is a topical piece exploring what it means to be an queer, undocumented Latino living in the United States today. The performance raises and discusses problems facing those who live in such precarious positions, like, for example, what it’s like to be in a relationship where one person is a citizen and the other an undocumented immigrant.
Manuel wonders if, despite the Supreme Court’s favourable ruling on gay marriage, “love doesn’t always win,” since an undocumented immigrant married to an American citizen is still subject to deportation if found living within the US without papers.
The ‘invisible’ difficulties of living on the margins of multiple communities and the impact of religion, law, and social stigma on one’s education, family, love, and the arts are all pondered and pored over by Manuel. Despite the weightiness of some of the topics covered in the play, Joto! is at its heart an autobiographical comedy, albeit one with a serious message.
“There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home,” boxer Tyson Fury controversially told a journalist in 2015. “One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion, and the other is paedophilia.” These remarks inspired Irish playwright Rob Ward to pen boxing drama Gypsy Queen (Player’s Theatre, May 8-13, 7.30pm, matinee 2.30pm, Saturday May 13), in an attempt to challenge dated notions of masculinity.
Gypsy Queen follows undefeated bareknuckle champ ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell as he leaves his Traveller community in order to embark on a career as a professional boxer. In the homoerotic environs of the gym, George’s pugalistic mentor and his openly gay son expand his horizons far beyond the narrow scope of his experience, and in doing so, help George attain significant self-insight. But what good is insight if you’re so afraid of life that you never let you guard down enough to embrace the real you?
George is also helped by fellow boxer Dane, whom he develops feelings for, and by doing so forces him to confront the damage done by dated notions of what a man is supposed to be, the ever-present spectre of homophobia in sport and the difficulty of being true to oneself in the face of hostility.
In the late 19th century, all the way up to the 1950s, reportedly, a ruthless and highly skilled all-female gang operated in the London’s Elephant and Castle district.
The gang – known as the the Forty Elephants, or sometimes the Forty Thieves – raided stores and shoplifted thousands of pounds worth of goods by means of ingeniously altered garmets and hats sown with hidden pockets. And they were as inventive in their purloining as they were successful, using numerous ruses – like obtaining work as housemaids using fake references, before ransacking employers’ homes. The gang were admired by their male counterparts for their fearlessness and military precision during the comission of their crimes.
Multi-award winning The Elephant Girls (Outhouse, May 8-13, 9pm, matinee 2.30pm Saturday, May 13) tells the story of the gang through its fearsome leader, suit-wearing, girl- chasing Maggie Hale. “I’ll tell you something special I ain’t never told anyone before,” says Maggie, “I’ll tell you the truth.” And tell all she does: who the women were, what they did, how they got away with it, and how it all came crashing down. But just how much of the gang’s exploits can you handle?
As part Jamila Humphrie’s Masters Thesis at New York’s Gallatin School, she and collaborator Emily Schorr conducted 21 interviews with young people of diverse backgrounds about their identities, the labels they claim or create, and the biggest issues facing their communities. From these interviews came How We GLOW (running together with Love Trumps Everything at The Teachers Club, May 8 – 13, 7.30pm, matinee 2.30pm, Saturday, May 13). Inspired by The Laramie Project, the show aims to blurs the line between audience, theatre and community. By listening to the unique experiences of the interview participants, it’s hoped that audiences will leave with a desire to deepen cross-generational dialogue and to work in solidarity with these young people towards structural changes that support their identities.
“Billy loves Colm. Colm loves Billy. But just as a mate. Colm thinks he loves Dave who is more interested in his own embryonic drag career. And Orla’s getting absolutely nowhere with the Paradise nightclub’s resident tune spinner, the Ice Queen that is DJ Mary. Unrequited love sucks!”
Such are the dramas that engulf the lives of the patrons of The Paradise (The Complex, May 1-6, 9pm, matinee 4pm, Saturday, May 6), Ireland’s oldest gay nightclub, which is on the verge of closure. A group of the club’s loyalest patrons get together to see the place off in style, but before they do, there are some scores to be settled (and probably a bar tab or two). This musical – produced by Irish LGBT theatre company, Acting Out – switches between 1993 and the present day and is soundtracked by uptempo, catchy, electro-pop numbers written by Irish duo, Eden.
With a glowing, ve-star review, Gay Times called Patrick Cash’s Queers (Player’s Theatre, May 8-13, 9pm, matinee 4pm, Saturday, May 13) “A glorious collage of penetrating portraits,” when it played London’s King’s Head Theatre in 2015. Now presented in Ireland for the rst time, and directed by Peter Darney (5 Guys Chillin’), it tells the story of a group of characters including 25 year-old who is on a straight stag party, looking out for the ‘laydeez’, and perhaps a lad. Trashbag Trish is a tawdry drag queen, returning to her rural home after her Irish father’s death. Carol is a schoolteacher during the time of Section 28 in England, while 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 London’s east end. From the comfort of the closet to a drag queen at a job centre, Queers explores how far LGBT people have come in the ght for equality.
This is just a selection of what’s on offer at this year’s stellar festival. To download the full programme, visit the website now.
The Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival, May 1 to 14, www.gaytheatre.ie
© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.