It’s easy to forget about Section 28 and it’s ramifications, living life closeted in the shadows, the Gay scene largely, if not entirely underground, the height of the AIDS crisis and the fact that homosexuality was illegal in Scotland until 1980. While things aren’t exactly perfect now, a lot has changed.
James Ley hadn’t even heard of Lavender Menace, the Edinburgh LGBT bookshop founded by Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielson, that existed from 1982 to 1986, when he won a LGBT History Month Cultural Comission to write a new play.
But that is exactly the subject matter of his celebratory play, Love Song to Lavender Menace.
Bookshop workers Lewis (Pierce Reid) and Glen (Matthew McVarish) spend the last night of Lavender Menace packing up the remaining stock while rehearsing their “homage” to Bob and Sigrid. The dreaded ‘W’ word – Waterstones is moving to town, LGBT literature is becoming available in mainstream bookshops, and Bob and Sigrid are moving on. With every book packed away comes a memory, from the early days as a bookstall in the cloakroom of Princes Street nightclub, Fire Island, through life as a Gay man in Edinburgh in the 80s, to the spectre of Section 28, which looms on the horizon. All the while, exploring the significance of some seminal pieces of LGBT writing, and all done with humour and pathos.
This is a tiny slice of life, from a very specific time and place, and because of that, all the more engaging and relatable. While the tone can be almost flippant at times, its serves as a timely reminder of the groundwork that has gone in to raising the profile of the LGBTIQ community in the public eye. Pierce Reid is mercurial as the idealistic Lewis, Matthew McVarish endearing as the more pragmatic Glen. Pierce in particular looks to have a glittering career ahead of him.
Charming, amusing, though-provoking and laugh-out-loud funny. A worthwhile work, written and performed in such a way that it will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. It also leaves you wanting to see what’s next for playwright Ley and these talented actors.
Images: Aly Wight