What’s Wrong With Angry?

When does a drama that’s written about contemporary issues stop being about now, and start to be nostalgic? And once it’s nostalgic, how long until we become so detached that it becomes a historical piece that can talk to us about how we live today?

The answers to both questions are, of course, somewhat fluid, but they do give some indication of the two stools between which _What’s Wrong With Angry?_, the 1993 play which is currently being revived at the King’s Head in Islington, falls.

Patrick Wilde’s script revolves around two very different sixteen-year-old boys who both attend the same single-sex Catholic school. Steven Carter is fey, bullied and out to his best friend, Linda; John Westhead is the cocksure, laddish head boy who dates girls, but sneaks off for encounters with men and doesn’t really know where either head or heart is at.

So far, so familiar, if not even hackneyed. Although if you’re thinking the setup is remarkably similar to feature film _Get Real_, there’s a reason — the movie was based upon the play. And to be honest, if you’re going to spend an evening in the company of a script by Patrick Wilde, I’d choose the film over the theatre version.

Part of the problem is that there is too strong a desire to preserve the theatrical piece in aspic. When a director revives a production that he both wrote and directed on its original run, as in this case, it seems that fidelity to that production takes precedence over speaking to a present-day audience.

There are good points within the production: notably, the central performances from Oliver Jack and Christopher Birks and one or two of the supporting actors. However, Charlie Deans has been badly let down by being miscast as Linda. Steven’s best friend is described throughout as being fat, but Deans is bordering on petite. As if to compensate, Deans plays the role much larger than the tiny King’s Head can accommodate, often neutralising the realistic portrayals that Jack and Birks provide.

In addition, Nic Gilder as gay schoolteacher Simon, who cannot help Steven for fear of falling foul of Section 28, is the weakest element of the whole play. Not once does he connect with the script he’s given. We end up not with a portrayal of a man in torment, but a recitation of lines with no heart and no emotion.

After _Fucking Men_ and _Naked Boys Singing_, it appears that the King’s Head is trying to stake a claim as a venue for gay theatre. I haven’t seen either of those productions, but can only hope they are better than _What’s Wrong With Angry?_. And if it wants to enhance its reputation, its next gay production will be vital.

La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse

No matter how brash, how funny, how camp La Cage aux Folles gets – and it is frequently all three at once – it is at its best in the moments of quiet, defined as they are by the freneticism that surround them.

Philip Quast, returning to the role of Georges that he held in this production’s original run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, is the quintessential light entertainment showman, running the Riviera’s best transvestite show bar and barely keeping the athletic dancers, the Cagelles, in check.

Georges’ home life provides the spur for the show’s plot, as his son Jean-Michel (Stuart Neal) tries to ‘straighten up’ his family in preparation for meeting his right wing prospective father in law. This means the enforced absence of Georges’ temperamental partner Albin, who is determined not to be sidelined quietly.

And it is Roger Allam’s performance as Albin that defines the dramatic shape of the show. His vocal performance, while it is not of the calibre of Quast’s, conveys the emotion of a man whose 20-year relationship risks being swept under the carpet. For all the sequins, feathers and mascara, the single element that defines La Cage aux Folles is a brief moment of stillness at the head of the show’s principal number, I Am What I Am. Allam is the master of the unspoken, and a single pause is simply heartbreaking.

The biggest laughs may come from Jason Pennycooke’s puckish servant Jacob, but the strength of the whole cast helps one overlook some of the weaker numbers and instead revel in a joyous, warm-hearted, still subversive comedy.

_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/24371/la-cage-aux-folles)_

**Playhouse, London**, May 11-January 9
**Authors:** Jerry Herman (music and lyrics), Harvey Fierstein (book), based on the play by Jean Poiret
**Director:** Terry Johnson
**Producers:** Chocolate Factory Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions, David Ian Productions, The Ambassador Theatre Group, David Mirvish, Tulchin/Bartner, Jamie Hendry
**Cast includes:** Roger Allam, Philip Quast, Stuart Neal, Jason Pennycooke, Tracie Bennett, Alicia Davies
**Running time:** 2hr 45min

A five year anniversary, and a milestone to boot

It’s sobering to think that it’ll be five years ago next week that [I won an award for political blogging](http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/feb/11/uk.technology).

That website, thegayvote.co.uk, fell out of my control when I left PlanetOut UK, who owned the domain. And when the UK office closed down shortly afterwards, the registration lapsed and got snapped up by a third party looking for a quick buck. It had lapsed quite recently and I held out hope that I may be able to grab it back, but it looks like the company that currently owns the domain name has renewed within the allowed limit, so it’ll remain unavailable.

If I had kept the whole blog going, I’m sure that the progression of Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir to become the first out world leader would have been covered before now. It’s a significant milestone, of course, and one that was bound to have been passed one day.

That it has happened in Iceland, a country traditionally more respectful of gay and lesbian people as part of society as a whole, is not that much of a surprise. In that respect, it’s less of a milestone than, say, Barack Obama winning the presidency of a country which in many ways is still racially divided.

There are similarities, though: just as some of Obama’s critics tried to defuse any sense of achievement for the first black president by suggesting that because his mother was white, he wasn’t quite black enough, you get some idiots saying that because Sigurdardottir was previously married and has two children, that she’s “not really gay”.


Well, aren’t we all glad that we have such people declaring themselves the final arbiters. Just as well, perhaps, that all the gay men and women who have had previous straight relationships, many of which have produced children, are off living their lives instead of taking notice of the ignorant amongst us.

With the way my career’s going at the moment, I’m not sure I’d have the time and energy to devote to an extracurricular blog in the same way as I could five years ago with The Gay Vote. When so much ignorance is clearly still at large, though, it is sorely tempting.

Sugar Snap, Union Theatre

Editor’s Rating

Promoted as a play to recognise the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Alex Cooke’s new work manages to shoehorn in many cliches of gay theatre without ever really rising above them.

The generally weak cast frequently stumble over lines in a manner that suggests neither hesitancy nor infirmity on the part of the characters, but under-rehearsal or lack of confidence. This often renders character dynamics painful to endure, especially between photographer Frazer (David McGillivray) and his ageing war veteran father (Donald Elliott).

The notable exception is Alec Parkinson who, as the young man that reminds Frazer of his long-departed unrequited love, is in a different league to the rest of the cast. That they visibly improve when he is on stage is a measure of his ability.

The script does occasionally display elements of wit and well-observed comedy, but for every good piece of dialogue there are several that seem trite. One cannot help feeling that the advice Frazer gives to his young student – to help improve his art, he needs to focus and be confident in his artistic decisions – is a lesson that this production needs to apply to itself.

Sugar Snap, Union Theatre1Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 13:43:44Promoted as a play to recognise the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Alex Cooke’s new work manages to shoehorn in many cl…

Gates of Gold

Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/14995/gates-of-gold)

Trafalgar Studios 2, London
Author: Frank McGuinness
Director: Gavin McAlinden
Producer: Charm Offensive
Cast: William Gaunt, Paul Freeman, Michelle Fairley, Josie Kidd, Ben Lambert
Running time: 1hr 25mins (no interval)

It is somehow appropriate that in presenting a fictionalised version of Irish theatrical couple Hilton Edwards and Michael MacLiammoir, Frank McGuinness presents us with a troupe of characters who are often unable to distinguish fact from fiction in their own lives.

William Gaunt, as frail actor Gabriel in his last days, dominates the stage. Through his bickering with uptight partner Conrad (Paul Freeman), we glimpse a relationship that has survived through love but not without bitterness and resentment. Michelle Fairley refuses to let Gabriel’s nurse, Alma, to be drawn as either saint or angel of mercy. Her confrontation with Gabriel’s nephew Ryan (an occasionally over-stiff Ben Lambert) leaves us no wiser as to whether she intends to hasten her charge’s departure.

Indeed, throughout the play it is hard for both characters and audience to establish what is fact and what is reality. This mostly works, although Gaunt’s soliloquy about what it was like to be blackmailed for being openly gay loses its impact under such a structure. The faults, though, are outweighed by the conclusion, with a dying Gabriel in his partner’s arms, calling out for one final fantasy. Conrad’s resulting speech – “Two men met. They had a marriage. It lasted” – has nothing untrue about it and brings to an end a remarkable evening of theatre.

Review: Beautiful Thing, Sound Theatre

Jonathan Harvey’s urban gay fairytale remains his best and funniest theatrical work to date and is further enhanced by this confident production.

As the 15-year-old neighbours whose friendship turns into full-blown love, the doe-eyed intelligence of Jonathan Bailey’s Jamie works perfectly alongside Gavin Brocker’s sport-obsessed Ste. Both actors provide a depth to the relationship far deeper than the dialogue would otherwise suggest.

They are eclipsed though by the female leads. Michelle Terry plays the Mama Cass-obsessed neighbour Leah as unlikable as she can, ensuring that the second act switch of character, where she becomes the ultimate in loyal friends, works flawlessly. Sparks fly between her and Jamie’s mother Sandra, the ultimate heart of the piece, whom Carli Norris plays with pitch-perfect ferocity and tenderness throughout.

In support, Steven Meo does well to lift hippy artist Tony out of the caricature he is painted on the page, forming a well-rounded and sympathetic outsider whose chilled out approach to problem solving saves the day when all about him are reduced to verbal and physical battery.

This production is likely to be the Sound Theatre’s last, before the bulldozers move in this autumn to replace it with a soulless hotel complex. In addition to the starlit finale on stage, Beautiful Thing creates the ultimate in happy endings for its venue as well.

This review first appeared in the August 3, 2006 issue of **The Stage**

July 19-September 9
Author: Jonathan Harvey
Director: Tony Frow
Producer: NML Productions
Cast: Jonathan Bailey, Gavin Brocker, Steven Meo, Carli Norris, Michelle Terry
Running time: 1hr 40mins

Two broadcasters who get it about the gay thing

After all the [Moyles](http://www.matthewman.net/articles/2006/06/06/the-bbc-governors-are-spastics) business, it’s nice to see two broadcasters (both straight) who get it.

First off, [Andrew Collins](http://www.wherediditallgoright.com/BLOG/2006/06/this-man-is-gay.html):

> But if it is expected to use gay as an insult, aren’t we just ever so slightly sliding backwards, semantically speaking? What if the word “black” became twisted in the playground to mean “rubbish” and that entered the adult lexicon? Is _that_ cool? Suppose “Northamptonian” became shorthand for “lame”. That’s _so_ Northamptonian! Would I care? I sort of would, even if the use of it didn’t actually injure me personally. I think I’d care in priniciple.
> I know, the English language evolves and mutates the whole time, and that is a wonderful thing, but I don’t think this matter is as cut and dried as the governors do. Surely it plays into the hands of those who think being gay actually is rubbish. I saw a documentary on Channel 4 the other night about a college in America for Christians who really do think it’s rubbish. They think it’s wrong and deviant and unnatural and dangerous. They must be rubbing their hands.

Bless him. I love Andrew Collins anyway (in a butch, platonic way, of course. Anything else would just be a little bit _moyles_). This almost makes up for him being a pundit on _Doctor Who Confidential_ when they should clearly have invited someone from _The Stage_ in his place :)

Secondly, Jon Stewart of America’s Daily Show, who laid into right-wing pundit Bill Bennett on the hypocrisy surrounding politicians hawking round anti-gay marriage amendments to shore up their fundamentalist bases:

> Stewart: So why not encourage gay people to join in in that family arrangement if that is what provides stability to a society?
> Bennett: Well I think if gay..gay people are already members of families…
> Stewart: What? (almost spitting out his drink)
> Bennett: They’re sons and they’re daughters..
> Stewart: So that’s where the buck stops, that’s the gay ceiling.
> Bennett Look, it’s a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women.
> Stewart:I disagree, I think it’s a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.

Thanks to [boingboing](http://www.boingboing.net/2006/06/07/jon_stewart_tears_op.html) for the link to [Crooks and Liars](http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/06/07.html#a8614), which has downloadable video of the show segment.

Or, you can just watch it via [YouTube](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ru1M8VDpnAY):

If you’re part of the [72.5% of households with digital television](http://www.thestage.co.uk/tvtoday/2006/06/were_a_digital_nation_now.php), make sure you catch the Daily Show every weekday, 8:30pm on [More4](http://www.channel4.com/more4).

The BBC Governors are spastics

Does the headline of this post offend you? It should. It’s insulting not only to the subjects (the BBC Board of Governors), but to a whole section of the population. It’s an insult that was prevalent in the school playgrounds that I grew up in, but that’s no excuse. Quite rightly, if anybody bandied such an insult about on the BBC, they would find themselves in contravention of the Corporation’s guidelines on taste and decency in short order.

But now there’s another insult doing the rounds. It, too, has its etymological roots through associating a person or thing with a section of the community — and implying that, as a result, the subject of the insult is all the lesser for that.

This time, though, the BBC Governors have decided that, because it’s a term freely in use in school playgrounds, it’s perfectly acceptable for a Radio 1 DJ to use such a derogatory term.

That insult is “gay”.

Apparently, because schoolchildren now use “gay” to relate to anything substandard, it’s okay for Radio 1’s resident crap DJ, Chris Moyles, to use it too.

> The Committee noted that the word “gay”, in addition to being used to mean “homosexual” or “carefree”, was often now used to mean “lame” or “rubbish”. This is a widespread current usage of the word amongst young people. The Committee was familiar with hearing this word in this context.

The governors are well aware of why using “gay” as an insult is offensive; for some reason its ubiquity in this form excuses a racist, homophobic cunt (another offensive word, in common usage as an insult but with a very different meaning from its original one — does that make it okay, too?) like Moyles, who should be setting an example rather than following the rules of the playground.

* [BBC Appeals to the Governors Jan-Mar 2006](http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/pdf/apps_janmar2006.pdf) (PDF)

What does Denise Pfeiffer know?

At the beginning of this week, there were a spate of letters in the Guardian on the subject of civil partnerships. One of them nearly prompted me to writein response, and the only reason I didn’t was that a previous letter of mine on the same subject was printed just a couple of months ago. I did remember, though, the name of the letter’s author: Denise Pfeiffer. Well, with a surname like that it sticks in your head.

In today’s Evening Standard, along with a typically sensible and reasoned letter from Jonathan at overyourhead.co.uk, Denise Pfeiffer’s at it again. Now, as far as I’m aware, the letters page doesn’t go on the internet, so I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing it. Here it is, in full (although I suspect, from my own and Jonathan’s experience, that the Standard have edited it down for length):

The Government is giving homosexual couples the same legal rights, pension, immigration and tax benefits as married couples, but where does this leave heterosexual couples who do not want to go through the process of affirming commitment through a religious or a civil marriage?

What about spinsters and bachelors in sexless partnerships, or elderly same-sex relatives who have bought a house together and have looked after each other for years? Is the Government saying that these types of relationships shouldn’t receive the same legal rights as homosexual partnerships? The one thing gay civil partnerships have not brought about is equality.

Denise Pfeiffer, Leicester

It doesn’t take a genius to work out the answer to her first question. Where does it leave unmarried straight couples? Exactly where they were before. If they can marry, but choose not to, then they have a legal equality with gay couples who can choose to marry under the Civil Partnerships Act, but choose not to. It’s a choice. It’s fantastic. If you choose not to, then fine. But starting this week, for the first time, we get the same choice. Deal with it.

Terrance, as usual, says it best (although he’s the first to admit he’s reiterating Jonathan Rauch):

If people want to strengthen marriage, then it would be much more effective to let same-sex couples marry and send the same message to everyone: if you want the rights and priviledges of marriage, get married.

So, let’s be clear. [Straight unmarried couple] Madner and Schreiner, and couples like them aren’t losing any rights. They’re losing an alternative to marriage, but they still have the right to get marriage and enjoy the benefits thereof. They still have the priviledge of having more options in protecting their relationship than same-sex couples do.

This whole thing irks me. There is a whole coterie of people who rise up against gay couples getting any form of legal protections, and yet call themselves Christian. And yet, what they are doing is ensuring that people at their lowest ebb – when they or their loved one is ill, incapacitated, dying – are more vulnerable than they need to be. That’s not Christianity, that’s the complete opposite.

Incidentally, it turns out that Denise has her own Wikipedia entry! Rather coyly, she describes herself (oh come on, who else is going to write about her?) as “press officer for a UK media watchdog” – sounds really official, doesn’t it? Almost like she works for Ofcom or something. In actual fact, it’s MediaMarch – which Nick Barlow describes, quite aptly, as occupying “the part on the Venn diagram where Mediawatch and Christian Voice intersect”.

Civil partnerships: the fight’s not over

A plain language summary of the issues contained within the Government’s white paper on civil partnerships for same-sex partners. The consultation paper went on to form the basis of the Civil Partnerships Act, which came into law in 2005. Written for Gay.com UK.

It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like we’re finally on the road to having legally recognised relationships between gay or lesbian couples.

The Government’s Women and Equality Unit, part of the Department of Trade and Industry, today unveiled its white paper, **Civil Partnership: A framework for the legal recognition of same-sex couples**. The consultation document outlines how the Government sees gay and lesbian couples’ rights being safeguarded and extended until they match those of married straight couples.

Under the proposals, which will affect England and Wales (with some knock-on effects in Scotland and Northern Ireland), couples would have to sign a civil partnership register, to be kept and maintained by the same council register offices that currently handle marriages. The bad news for anybody who’s signed one of the non-legally binding registers local councils have instigated around the country is that you’ll have to go through it all again: none of these registers will automatically get promoted to legal status. Which is a good thing, as there are so many rights and responsibilities attached to partnerships that we shouldn’t assume everybody who wanted to sign a decorative piece of paper would be happy signing one with strings attached. For those that do, however, there’ll be another license fee to pay.

The full document stretches to nearly 90 pages, and covers most of the common areas that we think of when discussing the disparities between married, straight couples and gay couples. But it also dispels some of the myths. For all the talk about ‘next-of-kin’ rights, particularly when one partner is taken ill, there is no such thing as the ‘next of kin’ in law. The paper notes that this causes much confusion, both for patients, their relatives and hospital staff. The Government are going to ensure guidance notes to NHS staff take account of same-sex relationships, but that’s not something that has to wait for a change in the law to take place.

Another issue the paper tackles head-on are people’s concerns that unmarried opposite-sex couples also have concerns over their own rights (the common perception of “common law”, like that of next of kin, being false). Quite correctly, in my view, it believes that the needs of unmarried couples, regardless of gender, are an entirely separate legal issue.

Whether it’s prison visiting rights, parental responsibility, or your rights should your partner die, basically if it’s available automatically to married couples, it will also be available to registered couples. The similarities extend to break-ups — dissolution of a civil partnership could end up as costly, both financially and emotionally, as divorce, and in exactly the same ways.

Indeed, most of the ramifications of a civil partnership scheme boil down to the same thing: money. If you and partner register your relationship, the state will assume that you pool your incomes and calculate benefit entitlements accordingly – just as they do for straight couples who marry.

One major difference will be in state pensions. Everything about this area of the law moves incredibly slowly. At the moment, current pension law is some of the most sexist legislation we have, dating back to the times when the husband went out and earned the pennies, while the wife stayed at home sprouting kids and cooking everybody’s dinner. Thankfully, that’s changing, but it means that gay and lesbian registered couples will only start achieving parity with married partners in 2010, with full equality across the board only achieved once state retirement ages equalise between men and women in 2020.

To all intents and purposes, the state will recognise you for what you probably already regard yourself – a family. Indeed, it’s incredibly gratifying to read the statement: **”The Government proposes that registered partners should be treated as a single family unit.”** None of this “pretended family relationship” nonsense that Section 28 tried to saddle us with: we’re real, we’re families. And about time, too.

* Originally published on [Gay.com UK](http://uk.gay.com/)