RIOT Director Stages Show About Being Gay In 1980s London

RIOT director Philip McMahon is directing a staged reading of Colm Ó Clúbhán's 1985 play 'Friends of Rio Rita's'

The artwork for the staged reading of Friends of Rio Rita's that is being directed by Philip McMahon, RIOT director

The director of award-winning THISISPOPBABY show RIOTPhilip McMahon, is directing a staged reading of Colm Ó’Clúbhán’s 1985 play, Friends of Rio Rita’s.

Friends of Rio Rita’s, originally performed in July 1985 followed by two performances in August and October of the same year, was written by Ó’Clúbhán (né Clifford).

Now, the first ever Irish performance of the show will take place this Friday, November 3rd in Outhouse at 6pm.

The show, which stars Ian Lloyd Anderson and Peter Corboy, is being organised by poet and Irish studies scholar Ed Madden under the auspices of Boston College – Ireland, where Madden is this year’s Neenan Fellow in Irish Studies.

The title was intended to be an Irish version of the Anglo-American expression, ‘friends of Dorothy’

A press release for the show explains the thinking behind the title of Ó’Clúbhán’s play:

“Colm Ó’Clúbhán (Clifford) author of Friends of Rio Rita’s moved to London in 1973 and soon became active with the Gay Liberation Front.

“Speaking to Dublin’s Out magazine in 1985, Ó’Clúbhán explained that he took the title for the play from the drag queen Rio Rita in Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, ‘probably the only gay character I know of in Irish drama.’The title was intended to be an Irish version of the Anglo-American expression, “friends of Dorothy.”

“The title was intended to be an Irish version of the Anglo-American expression, ‘friends of Dorothy.'”



Being a gay Irish man in 1980s London was incredibly politicised, Ó Clúbhán suggests in Friends of Rio Rita, due to “the Troubles” and “anti-Irish racism” which were prevalent across The Irish Sea.

“Written by Colm Ó Clúbhán and first staged in London in 1985, Friends of Rio Rita’s has never before been staged in Ireland.”

“The play explores the relationship of two gay men who left Ireland for London because of their sexuality, but who find themselves increasingly politicized by the Troubles and anti-Irish racism.”


About The Director

Friends of Rio Rita director McMahon is one half of THISISPOPBABY, and was co-creator and co-curator of the THISISPOPBABY performance venue at Electric Picnic, Queer Notions cross arts festival and WERK Performance/Art/Club.

As a teenager, McMahon was a member of Dublin Youth Theatre, National Youth Theatre and Australian Theatre for Young People.

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McMahon has extensive directing credits including Not A Funny Word (Abbey Theatre), Town Is Dead (Abbey Theatre), Dublin Oldschool (Project/NT London), RIOT, The Year of Magical Wanking, and a live arena show for Rubberbandits at Electric Picnic Music and Arts Festival, as well as High Heels in Low Places, All Dolled Up, A Woman in Progress and In These Shoes? all written and performed by drag superstar Ms Panti Bliss.

McMahon expressed his excitement at being involved in this production:

“I’m really thrilled to be part of the team staging Colm Ó Clúbhán’s work for the first time in Ireland,” he said. “He is and was an important queer voice and it’s great to be able to see him added to the canon of queer Irish playwrights.”

The staged reading of ‘Friends of Rio Rita’ will be held in the downstairs theatre at Outhouse at 6pm, November 3. The event is free and open to the public with tickets available here and more info available here.

There will also be a reading of producer Ed Madden’s own work at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast on November 17. 

© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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