SPOTLIGHT ON: A Madonna musical, forbidden love, and conversion therapy

Brian Butler January 29, 2023

If queer storytelling is your thing, then I’ve got five more shows and a film to pique your interest. Linck and Mulhahn is a play by Ruby Thomas, slated for the Hampstead Theatre in London.

“It is life’s great aim: to find a way to be honest with oneself, even as the world pretends around you,” says the blurb for the show.

Dashing soldier Anastasius Linck had no intention of falling in love, but a chance encounter with the rebellious Catharina Mulhahn changes that. As they begin their relationship that breaks boundaries and rejects the rigid rules of society, they find themselves confronted by a world determined to tear them apart.

Ruby Thomas’ epic and playful modern love story is inspired by 18th century court records and the extraordinary true life stories of this gender pioneering couple. It stars Maggie Bain and Helena Wilson and runs at Hampstead Theatre from January 27 to March 4. Tickets –

Vault Festival in London’s Waterloo sees the world premiere of Tobias Rossi’s dark coming-of-age tale Hide And Seek. Delving into the devastating impact of homophobia on young people, the play is set in a small Italian town. It follows teens Gio and Mirko on an unflinching journey to self-acceptance, with dramatic consequences. It runs February 21-23 at Crescent, The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo. Tickets:

Live To Tell: (A Proposal For) – The Madonna Jukebox Musical is the world premiere of a play by Brian Mullin. Central character, also Brian, is a Madonna super fan living with HIV. He pitches himself to the super diva to create a jukebox musical based on her songs, whilst facing what it means to survive HIV.

Brian Mullin will play the self-inspired role with Dan de la Motte playing all the other characters and Nadia Ginsburg (RuPaul’s Drag Race) as the voice of Madonna. It’s a story of reinvention in more ways than one. It runs at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham from February 7-18, and at Camden People’s Theatre from April 4-15. Tickets – and

Love Rash is a companion piece to Clown Sex – featured recently in one of my Scene previews. It has its debut at the Pleasance Theatre, North London from February 14-18. We meet Ian Bartender, a man on a mission to understand menstruation; Augusta, an intrepid journalist who receives cat cunnilingus in South Africa; and a fat berg flusher – sewer man Gary Strange, the star of Clown Sex. Gary discovers a gigantic sexual deity deep underground, while all the characters are desperate for connection at any cost. Love Rash is a weird and wonderful comedy starring writer Natasha Sutton Williams, who identifies as queer and disabled.

There are tales of sex, which are funny, grotesque and surprisingly relatable. Tickets –

Spy For Spy is a world premiere of a romantic comedy with a difference by Kieron Barry. It’s a drama performed like a playlist with the scenes shuffled in a random order. Sarah and Molly are two Californians who love each other and that’s all they have in common.

As the uptight lawyer and free-spirited dreamer strive to make their improbable relationship work, we see them break up, meet the parents, move in together, fall in love – and all in a random sequence. Do our lives make more sense in the wrong order? Can we love without grief? Is intimacy just spying? It’s staged at the Riverside Studios in London from June 15 to July 2. Tickets –

And finally, the short film I Am Norman was an official selection at Oscar-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival. It’s co-directed by the highly talented Darius Shu, who is also its cinematographer, and composer of its featured song, A Peaceful Killing.

It’s written, co-directed by and stars Arron Blake. It deals in a darkly comic and disturbing way with death, mental illness, suicide and conversion therapy – often in graphic terms. Filmed outdoors, Darius marvellously  creates a close-up claustrophobia, allowing Blake to bring us into the story and its consequences in a non-judgemental way. It’s mesmerising, thought-provoking and strangely engaging. It can be seen on YouTube and for one night only on a big screen at The Cinema in Battersea Power Station, on a bill of short films on February 13 as part of a showcase of films as therapy.

While you’re at it, you can also catch Darius’ wonderful Asian, queer romantic film with a twist – Queer Parivaar  which won awards at last year’s Iris Prize Film Festival and which is currently showing among the Iris British shorts on all4.