Theatre preview: Queers
DIVA speaks to two stars of a new play all about LGBTQ empowerment
Queers is an exhilarating new play about LGBTQ empowerment, written by Patrick Cash (The HIV Monologues) and directed by Peter Darnsey (5 Guys Chillin'). Two of the show's stars, Siân Docksey and Charly Flyte, spoke to DIVA ahead of opening night to give us an insight into their characters, Carol and PJ.
(Image credit: Nick Rutter)
I’m a comedy writer and performer playing Carol in Queers. Carol is an anxious queer Welsh woman and part-time vegan, so luckily there’s very little acting required.
Carol and her girlfriend PJ represent two different forms of LGBT activism. Carol has moved to London from a small town in Wales so she can have a quiet life in a gay relationship. I suppose now it would be called “homonormalisation”, but I think that’s a dismissive term.
Carol tentatively sets out to make small changes in the school she works in so queer kids can feel included and safe, but she is well aware that being too open about her sexuality could cost her her job. Which she needs, to survive. PJ is more upfront – we hear allusions to the countless protests and activists groups she is part of. Carol is obviously in awe of PJ and her die-hard commitment to LGBT equality – but also frustrated that she’s never at home. There’s always another meeting, or a demonstration, or another government building that needs smashing (presumably, Carol and PJ’s flat is a constant mess of painted banners, stubbed out rolled cigarettes and #LoveTrumpsHate t-shirts).
Carol feels that their relationship often takes place to the innumerable, abstract number of people outside that PJ is fighting for – and additionally, she is slightly envious of PJ’s brazen confidence and total disregard for the personal consequences of her actions. PJ identifies as someone whose queerness is more than their sexuality; it means being intersectional, radical, and part of an ongoing political project – whereas Carol is a gay woman just trying to muddle through.
Carol’s experience definitely reflects mine when I first moved to London as a wide-eyed baby queer (actual age: 23, queer politics age: can’t-even-do-up-own-rainbow-DM-shoelaces). I mainly moved here to figure out how to do comedy and pay my bills, and only got distracted by complicated relationships with people of various genders 98% of the time.
Carol and PJ’s story hits home with me because LGBTQ relationships seem to become political even when one, both, or more parties doesn’t think of themselves as political at all. I’m holding out for when the queer communist utopia comes, and a person’s sexuality is totally incidental to them being included socially, economically and politically. Until then, I’ve got to read a lot of blogs.
PJ, my character, is a fierce, doesn’t give a fuck, revolutionary. She’s a person who fully embodies her politics and is not afraid to give everything for the cause despite the ramifications it has on her life and love.
I’m a performer and filmmaker. Queers is a particularly sentimental play for me as it marks my first ever lesbian role. And it’s interesting to me as a lesbian and queer woman who has been acting for 20 years, that this is the case. I feel that not only are lesbian stories few and far between in mainstream media, but when they do come about they are so rarely told with the sensitivity and layered complexity that comes with women’s sexualities. It’s not uncommon to feel that these are performed solely for the male gaze and telling stories that don’t lead us to exploring and progressing culture but instead only continue to validate a system of oppressive patriarchal values.
Misogyny and homophobia within the acting industry is rife. It is sadly not a surprise that I still receive scripts that suggest in the stage directions that the mother of my character "still looks good despite her age". Talking with a friend who’s a director recently, he was appalled when on an advertising shoot all proceedings had to ground to a halt as the production freaked out that the female model was taller than her male counterpart. Lest, the woman be shown to be powerful and strong. It feels so important that we take responsibility within the creative and entertainment industries to recognise we have a huge part to play in changing the landscapes of how we reflect the societies we portray.
What I love about Queers is that the lesbian characters’ narrative threads through the whole piece bringing all the stories together. The dynamic between the characters is authentic and truthful and shows the power of the love between two women. And despite love's conflicts, the play leaves you with a lasting message of hope for our community.
Queers is on at the King's Head Theatre in Islington 27 June - 1 July. Book your tickets now at kingsheadtheatre.com.
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