The Absolut Gay Theatre Festival 2010

April 22, 2010


What applies to busses would also appear to aply to the gays. You wait around to see one queer on the Irish stage and three festivals full of them come at once. As we await to hear if the Queer Notions Festival gets some much needed funding to make its second journey out of the closet and into the Project Arts Centre, this month see’s the welcome return of the 6th annual Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, taking place at venues all over Dublin City Centre’s north side. It faces stiff competition from the Absolute Gay Theatre Festival that runs concurrently and, in spite of this being its first time, avoids the awkward fumbling that may be expected of it with a line up so diverse it puts the stogy, groundhog plays that litter our main stages and our fringe to shame.

But do we need it? Is there a need for even one festival that services the LGBT community in Ireland? Elizabeth Moynihan, writer and director of Slaughterhouse Swan believes there is. “We obviously still need a specific festival because there are no representations of gay life in the main theatres. You just get the token characters on television and film and no representation at all in theatre.

“Its great, for me, who has lived through the 80s, to see young gay couples embracing openly and holding hands, like heterosexuals have done since the dawn of time, but we still have stuff to say and stuff to do.”

“We envy you for having such events” says Roy Horovitz, star of the Timekeepers. “To have two festivals competing with one another… I think that’s wonderful. We don’t have anything like that in Israel. We have plenty of plays dealing with gay matter but nothing that brings them all together.”

There aren’t many arenas in which LGBT performers and writers get the opportunity to present their work and Martin Lewton from Naked Homo thinks it’s great to be able to see other gay theatre and meet other gay theatre practitioners. “None of the English festivals or the European ones have these great banners up or have the involvement of people from the council. That’s a really good thing.”

The festival features a mixture of traditional theatre, musicals, cabaret and comedy and all aspects of gay life is represented, although that rare Irish bird, the Lesbian, seems to be uncharacteristically quite again.

Totally Dublin has cast its critical eye over this years Absolute Gay Theatre Festival and picked its top tips for you to splurge your pink pound upon.

Tennessee Suite

Written by Tennessee Williams

Directed by David Kaplan

Studio Theatre, Smock Alley

10th-15th of May, 8.00pm, €10/13/15

Written by Tennessee Williams in 1980 just before his death Tennessee Suite is the title given to a pair of plays performed together that are erotic, that are funny and that play with the passage of time and the endurance of desire.

The first, The Traveling Companion, is set in a hotel and depicts a standoff between an aging writer and a young man picked up at a gay bar and hired as a travelling companion. “It is a distorted self-portrait” Kaplan tells me “with a certain amount of self-mythologizing. It deals with loneliness and it is very unusual for him to be this direct about himself.”

Chalky White, meanwhile, imagines a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by older and younger men, younger men and their protectors. “The language is very beautiful and very strong and it’s different to the lyricism of his early plays.”

The Time Keepers

Written By Dan Clancy

Directed By Lee Gilat

Studio Theatre, Smock Alley 3rd-8th of May, 8.00pm, €10/13/15


The Time Keepers is an hilarious drama focusing on an unusual bond formed in a concentration camp between an elderly, conservative Jew and a shrieking homosexual, who in normal circumstances would never come together but are now thrown together and form a friendship in the time of horror.

“We are second and third generation so we are very sensitive to the issue of the holocaust so it’s in no means a mockery of the event.” Roy Horovitz, one of the actors tells me. “There are many studies and testimonies where they say survivors used humor to survive. We found a very large book from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which collected the caricatures and jokes that were told in the camps and ghettos. People stayed there for years and years and continued to live within terrible surroundings.”

Naked Homo

Written and Starring Martin Lewton

Directed By Andrew McKinnon

The Boys School, Smock Alley, 10th-15th of May, 9.30pm,  €10/13/15

A show looking at contempory gay life, Naked Homo is a one-man piece performed completely in the nip by writer/ star Martin Lewton

“It came out of the fact that I was working on a series of plays which dealt with how people saw themselves, live models and women dieting, etc” says Lewton. “I wanted to connect it with the gay world, so their are a wide number of gay men who aren’t out, gay men cheating on their wives, homophobic homosexuals, a guy cruising in the showers at the gym. There’s one set at gay pride and another with a guy looking back on his lover who died of AIDS. Some are humorous but they all say something about the Gay world today.”

Slaughterhouse Swan

Written and Directed by Elizabeth Moynihan

The New Theatre, 10th-15th of May, 6.45pm,  €10/13/15

A tale about love and obsession set in a small town Slaughterhouse Swan is one of the few original Irish productions at his year’s festival. Written by the award winning Elizabeth Moynihan it deals with a Butcher and his wife, who have raised twins, a boy and a girl.

The story begins when the son comes back unannounced after a ten year absence.  We don’t know why he has left and we don’t know why he is home and his twin, who feels terribly abandoned, is just out of prison after having an affair with her piano student, who was under age. It shows how the repressive laws that govern underage sex can catch in its net some innocent people.

Moynihan doesn’t believe that the Irish theatre meets the needs of the LGBT community. “Dolly West’s Kitchen by Frank McGuiness is, to my memory, the only play to have a gay character in a mainstream production at the Abbey. There is something wrong about this picture. That plays with gay characters are confined to a gay festival. This isn’t a gay play. It’s about a woman who falls in love with someone the law says she shouldn’t.”

In reviewing Moynihan’s Walnuts Remind Me of My Mother last year, Peter Crawley raised the point the her work was the only original piece of writing in the festival dealing with Lesbian issues by an Irish writer. “I wonder why there aren’t more young 20-something Lesbian writers writing about women’s issues or gay women’s issues” she says. “I mean I am a middle-aged woman. They’re not being rejected, no one is coming forward. I don’t know what it says about us but it’s not good.”

Two Loves

Written by John Martin Stephens

The New Theatre, 3rd-8th of May, 6.45pm, €10/13/15

A musical drama that merges modern day dialogue with the Shakespearean sonnets and the American songbook this original drama follows the seduction of a young man by a poet and his mistress.

“I didn’t want to write an appraisal of the Sonnets because so many other people have done that.” Says Stephens. “What I was more interested in was how a 400-year-old source material could make a modern and compelling drama. I tried to stay as true to the themes of the sonnets, taking as little license as possible. “

Weepie

Director Donald Pulford

Writer Chris Goode

The New Theatre, 10th-15th of May, 8.00pm,  €10/13/15

In November 1994, two nineteen year old, upper middle class students were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Mohammed el-Sayed.  There was no obvious reason for the murder.  The victim was unknown to the perpetrators and there was no racial motive. The British public, who explained the Jamie Bulger case to themselves by saying that these boy’s were from the criminal classes, couldn’t put it down to class and they couldn’t put it down to deprivation. So Weepie trys to find an answer as to why they did it. One area it explores is the type of masculinity that men are encouraged to adopt. The other is the temptation to have an experience, which is sublime, out of the ordinary.

“One of the hundred reasons I love this script is that it isn’t a beginning, middle and end kind of story.” Says Director Donald Pulford who stalked writer Chris Goode after first seeing the show in Edinburgh, directed by the author and knew he could do a better job. “The script is full of texture and rhythm and imagery and if you try and connect them you’ll probably drive yourself crazy. It’s more of an aesthetic event. We are looking at rhythm, space, and scale of action, atmosphere and weaving of a pattern. For me the greatest challenge is to make something as ugly as I can and as beautiful as I can.”

For more details on the Absolout Gay Theatre Festival or to book tickets check out http://absolutgaytheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/ or the Culture Section of the Totally Dublin Website for extended versions of the above interviews

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