Riot Act: World AIDS Day charity gala performance

"As a gay man writing about the gay male experience, I’m so pleased that I can also honour LBT+ women"


Riot Act. All images Dawson James.


My solo theatre piece Riot Act hits the West End on 26 November 2018 as a special one-off charity gala performance in aid of the Dean Street Wellbeing Programme.


In it, I stand on one spot for an hour, all my dialogue made out of interviews with three different gay men; Stonewall survivor Michael Anthony Nozzi, radical 70s drag queen, Lavinia Co-op, and 90s AIDS activist, Paul Burston, chanelling six decades of queer history.



Though Riot Act is very much about the gay male experience, it pays tribute to some amazing women too and to do so is very important to me.


There's the lesbians who joined the early Gay Liberation Front; a radical group fighting for queer rights, who were constantly shouted down by some of the gay men there and the women "who were strong and able to shout back" and how eventually the women left as they felt it was no longer for them.


Drag queen, Lavinia, wanted the women to be part of the group and so when they left, so did he. Because of this, the GLF wasn't for him anymore either: "That, for me, was the end of the Gay Liberation Front, when the women left.


"For me, the Gay Liberation Front wasn’t just about gay men. It was about gay men and women."


Lavinia also talks about his early drag challenging misogynistic representations: "That wasn't where I was coming from. It was about androgyny and freedom and crossing boundaries, not creating a grotesque caricature of a woman."



90s AIDS activist, Paul Burston, pays tribute to the lesbians who stood by their gay brothers' sides at the height of the AIDS crisis while the rest of society turned its back.


"They were often written out of the stories, often overlooked which makes me cross," says Paul. 


He pays tribute to them as "incredibly brave women" and then his "character" delivers a massive truth-bomb to the audience about lesbian and bisexual women’s involvement in the fight against AIDS, and every night it silences the audience – because they know it's painfully true. (Without giving anything away!)


Via Riot Act, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a female audience member who was part of ACT-UP. I was so honoured and pleased that she loved the show and the acknowledgement of her and her friend's vital roles and contributions. (She's coming back to the see the play in the West End – this time with her girlfriend).



Paul also talks of the amazing lesbian activists who, in response to Section 28, gatecrashed the BBC news live on air forcing newscaster Sue Lawley, to proclaim; "I’m afraid that we have rather been invaded..."


Those woman, are to me, legends and sometimes that section of Riot Act gets a cheer and I love that. As a gay man writing about the gay male experience, I’m so pleased that I can also honour LBT+ women.


Editing hours of interview recordings it was hard to decide what to edit out, but I knew it was essential to keep some of the moments above in.


For tickets and to find out more, click here.



Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves. // //


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