The Drayton Arms Theatre, London
This Production has now closed
CW: Suicide and Mental Health
As is often the case in theatre, we are observers and listeners, not actively participating in a series of events unfolding rapidly in front of us – we sit down in the dark to watch stories and listen to the lives of those far different to our own. Some theatregoers prefer this separation between the performer and the audience, while others delight in the rambunctious banter that can occur between those on the stage and those in the seats.
The latter of these is what I experienced at the closing night of Queer Week 2019 at The Drayton Arms theatre space, an intimate and modest venue on Old Brompton Road in South Kensington. Throughout the evening we were exposed to a myriad of performances – namely music by the entrancingly husky- voiced Jakob Noah, the deliciously witty dragged-up stand-up from Steve (single-use name, á la Cher) and an important verbatim musical about mental illness amongst queer people, fittingly titled Here, Queer and Mentally Unclear.
I immediately noticed the sense of community within the room that night – Jakob Noah’s opening numbers were met with enthusiastic applause. Steve’s cabaret act was as camp as they come, with a healthy spoonful of sarcasm. He performed to his mother, sister and husband, who cheered him on from the audience that roared with laughter at his jokes. And not just jokes – we listened intently when he addressed the conversation within and without the queer community around trans people and their rights. It was a room brimming with support and acceptance and a familiarity that is truly intangible and often not visible in theatrical spaces.
The verbatim musical Here, Queer and Mentally Unclear is a telling of the struggles and successes of queer people, with specific aspects of these stories being encapsulated in song. I could only salute the bravery of the performers at their honesty and courage in reciting words that have clear ties to their own personal journeys – and when they sang through their tears about gender dysphoria, depression, bipolar disorder and suicide, it made the reality of mental illness amongst queer people sink in.
While the show is stripped back and not for a patron of more expensive, showier productions, its value lies in its incredible sense of community and the electrical energy it sends throughout the room. Representing queer people is not something we can do too much of, and to have a week celebrating queer work and artists outside of what seems like our designated pride season is a positive change and this writer hopes that we will continue to have many more queer weeks ahead of us!
© Killian Glynn
For full listings of shows that took place in Queer Week – visit the Drayton Arms website.