Homo Promos, Britain’s oldest LGBTQ+ theatre company, to premiere its latest production, 1944: Home Fires, in London in September

Graham Robson August 17, 2023

Homo Promos, Britain’s oldest LGBT+ theatre company, is premiering its latest production,¬†1944: Home Fires, at the¬†Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, London as part of the ever-inventive Tete-a-Tete Opera Festival,¬†followed by the Tower Theatre in¬†Stoke Newington, London.

This 50-minute chamber opera is based on a possibly-true story of when Welsh icon Ivor Novello, the darling of the West End, was imprisoned in 1944 for fiddling his wartime petrol coupons. This was a serious offence at the time, and he got eight weeks from a homophobic magistrate. Sent to Wormwood Scrubs prison, he found himself sharing a cell with 20-year-old ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser, destined to become the psychopathic hitman of the Richardsons in the 1960s gang wars with the Kray Twins.

In 2013 Frankie entered the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest person ever to receive a ASBO, when at the age of 89 he hit a fellow-resident in his care home with his Zimmer frame. Old habits die hard. Glamorous fey Ivor meets violent homophobe Frankie. What could possibly go wrong?!

Homo Promos say: “We reclaim and dramatise queer history, but in a way that brings it right up to date. Ivor Novello thought his career was in ruins and he’d never work again. Frankie was secretly terrified his brain would be fried when he was sent for the new Electric Shock Treatment; he was diagnosed as ‘incurably criminal’. Homosexuals were known as ‘incurables’ too; though paradoxically Conversion Therapy, which claims the¬†opposite, is still not outlawed, a matter of distress for many LGBTQ+ people.”

“1944: Home Fires is a comedy of mismatch, of toxic masculinity, of class war, of the dark underbelly of the Blitz, and, for Ivor, the tortuous road to redemption.”

The music of the show is by Robert Ely, who was himself investigated by military police then thrown out of the army when he was discovered to be gay.

Homo Promos specialises in intergenerational working.¬† The librettist Peter Scott-Presland at 74 is older than the conductor Joe Tobin, director Emily Beech and r√©p√©titeur Jack Campbell combined. The theatre company also specialises in ‘opera for people who don’t like opera’, being tuneful, with strong characters and situations, in English, and short.

There are only two public performances:

Sunday, September 3 at 8.30pm: Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH. Tickets here.

Wednesday, September 6 at 8pm: Tower Theatre, 16 Northwold Road, London N16 7HR. Tickets here