"Eight monologues by eight different writers are delivered by eight different actors – each one giving thought-provoking resonance to their words. A reminder, if it were needed, that the reopening of a theatre can lead to the reopening of minds." Chris Arnot
"Queers is a good choice of play for our times. This series of eight monologues, each by a different author... is well suited to the moment when coming together carries risks that are mitigated by behaviour and controls... Each presents a sensitive, nuanced, sometimes angry, bitter-sweet portrait of lives lived, sometimes to fulfilment, sometimes not... a long journey which, given the hostility that still exists in the world, is by no means over." Nick LeMesurier
The first post-lockdown live performance at the Criterion is staged over five nights to a socially distanced audience and is currently sold out. Our updated Covid safety protocols related to this production can be found here.
Production photographs and reviews can be found here.
Tickets can still be purchased for the additional online streamed performance which will be available on Youtube for 24 hours from 00:00 on Sunday 4th October. This is a filmed recording of a live performance from the dress rehearsal, so will include all sound effects and music, as well as being produced in our professionally-lit theatre space. An email with the YouTube link will be sent out with all information to every ticket purchaser, not later than Saturday morning.
'Queers' is a wonderful collection of beautifully-written monologues, all by different writers, which celebrates a century of evolving social attitudes and political milestones in British LGBTQI+ history, as seen through the eyes of different individuals.
A young soldier returning from the trenches of the First World War recollects a love that dare not speak its name. Almost one hundred years later, a groom-to-be prepares for his gay wedding.
They were curated by Mark Gatiss and broadcast on BBC Four in 2017 and also staged at The Old Vic in London.
Poignant and personal, funny, tragic and riotous, these monologues for male and female performers cover major events – such as the Wolfenden Report of 1957, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and the debate over the age of consent – through deeply affecting and personal rites-of-passage stories.
This play contains strong language and content of a sexual nature.
Review by Chris Arnot
In the programme, director Gennie Holmes describes the Criterion “community” as “on the whole, white, middle-class and straight”. Well, I guess I tick all those boxes and, to be honest, I wasn’t wildly excited about going to a play on the subject of changing attitudes to homosexuality over the past century or so.
I was, however, delighted that our beloved local theatre was open for business again. So, suitably masked and socially distanced, I took my seat more in hope than expectation of a riotously entertaining evening.
The cast were even more distanced than the audience. Eight monologues were delivered from a solitary table from which actors paused and took a sip or swig of a drink every now and then – everything from a flat-looking pint to a glass of champagne or a dry sherry.
“None of your Harvey’s Bristol Cream,” a splendidly camp Mark Jeffries shouted to the offstage bar staff. By then it was 1967 and homosexuality had finally been legalised, albeit only for those over 21.
Making his entrance to the Kinks singing A Dedicated Follower of Fashion, the tailor who dubbed himself “the Duchess of Duke Street” was sporting a startling tartan suit with a red pocket handkerchief and a wide-collared white shirt.
All too soon he was reminiscing about the good old days of the Second World War when he’d worked as a rent boy. All those black-outs. All those American soldiers. All those men coming out with their true sexual feelings while they still had the chance of a life.
The play starts in the previous war. Leigh Bartlam, sporting the sort of moustache that became fashionable in gay circles many years later, plays a khaki-clad Red Cross man infatuated by his captain’s long eyelashes and “corn-yellow” hair.
They finally touch hands through a train window on a crowded station where a weeping man is being taken away by police. His name? Oscar Wilde. His crime? Gross indecency through practising “the love that dare not speak its name”.
Well, its name and its nature is spoken of many times in these monologues, every one of them delivered with distinctive style.
Lewis Goode gives an intriguing insight into what it was like to be black and “queer” after arriving in London in 1938, a decade before the Windrush and a year before the outbreak of war.
The Criterion’s artistic director Anne-marie Greene plays a “straight” woman married to a man whose sexual leanings lie elsewhere. He manages to make love to her just once in the first six months.
That particular monologue is set in 1957, the year of the Wolfenden Report’s conclusion that homosexuality between consenting adults should be legalised. As we know, it took another 10 years before that recommendation became law.
Twenty years later came the outbreak of the Aids pandemic. And nearly 30 years after that the legalisation of same-sexmarriage. Both are covered here not only with style but, in the case of a potential Aids victim played by Ted McGowan, discernible fear.
Another F-word features at regular intervals. Thankfully, however, there are no “scenes of a sexual nature”. After all, there’s only one person on stage at a time. Eight monologues by eight different writers are delivered by eight different actors – each one giving thought-provoking resonance to their words.
A reminder, if it were needed, that the reopening of a theatre can lead to the reopening of minds.
Queers is on at the Criterion until Saturday October 3.
Ticket holders can also watch it again on YouTube throughout Sunday.
Review by Nick LeMesurier
Queers is a good choice of play for our times. This series of eight monologues, each by a different author, and curated by Mark Gatiss, was first performed in 2017. It is well suited to the moment when coming together carries risks that are mitigated by behaviour and controls.
Set in an anonymous pub in London and spanning a century in which both much and little has changed, it presents the stories of eight characters whose lives each revolve to a greater or lesser degree around it. Each character engages the audience in a one-sided conversation in which they reflect on their life and times – being gay in WW1, or during the Blitz, or at the time of the Wolfenden Report which de-criminalised homosexuality in 1957, or during the swinging sixties, or the AIDS crisis in the late 80s, or later when marriage became legal in 2016. Each presents a sensitive, nuanced, sometimes angry, bitter-sweetportrait of lives lived, sometimes to fulfilment, sometimes not.
In The Man on the Platform by Mark Gatiss, Perce (Leigh Bartlam) is an army medic, a private soldier who tells of a short, exquisite love affair in 1917 with a senior officer that climaxes in a beautiful, tragicmoment. The Perfect Gentleman by Jackie Clune sees Bobby (Georgia Kelly), whom we might now call a cross-dresser, tell of her love affair with Sally, who like many at first thought that Bobby was a man. Safest Spot in Town, by Keith Jarrett, tells the story of Frederick (Lewis Goode), a black man in WW2 London’s gay scene, a place that for some offered freedom of a sort, despite the bombs. He mixes high and low, moving between Bloomsbury and the East End docksides, where he always has a place, yet is always twice an outsider.
A change of tone is ushered in with Missing Alice, by Jon Bradfield. Alice’s (Anne-Marie Greene) tale is of a straight woman who marries a gay man. It is a story of things unspoken, of a love that goes unrequited, until a path to acceptance opens up. In I Miss the War, by Matthew Baldwin, Jack (Mark Jeffries) is an ageing roué, one who has lived through the dark ages of prejudice and emerged into the light of swinging sixties London. Yet he misses something of the character of those days, when sex carried the added thrill of risk that more liberal times have dimmed. More Anger, by Brian Fillis, was indeed an angry tale. Phil is a bit-part actor, usually given the role of young man dying of some nasty disease. Then the AIDS epidemic sweeps the country, and the deaths become real. Ted McGowan’s performance spat with anger and pain and a bitter humour.
Happier times are described in A Grand Day Out, by Michael Dennis, which sees Andrew (Paul Forey), a shy seventeen year old lad drawn to the city to witnessthe bill to lower the age of consent for gay men to eighteen (not sixteen as it is for straight sex). He meets a man who gives him a bed for the night and his first proper sexual experience, a turning point in his life. Finally we have Something Borrowed by Gareth McLean, in which Adam and Steve (Gareth Cooper) are about to get married. It is a joyful point on a long journey which, given the hostility that still exists in the world, is by no means over.