SPOTLIGHT ON: From the oldest queer theatre company in the UK to queer cabaret La Cage Aux Folles, Ruby Wax’s quest to find peace and the stage debut of a gay diving star

Brian Butler August 11, 2023

Lead Pic: Le Cage Aux Folles at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Brighton-based choreographer Stephen Mear has created the moves for a revival of La Cage Aux Folles, now playing at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London for a summer season. “The best of times are now,” goes its famous song, with this new version of Harvey Feirstein and Jerry Herman’s terrific queer cabaret musical. For those who don’t know, cabaret club owners Georges and Albin, and their son Jean-Michel, re-discover the true meaning of family, and of putting yourself last so that the ones you love can be first, and you can truly say: “I am what I am”.

The mostly male ensemble in women’s outfits – the Cagelles – includes one of my favourite drag artists JP McCue – aka Mary Mac. Tickets HERE

Australian diving star Matthew Mitcham – the first openly gay athlete to win an Olympic gold medal – will make his UK stage debut in September. Strangers In Between, a captivating classic from Tommy Murphy, is an unflinching look at the highs and lows of growing up queer in modern Australia. It’s full of laugh-out-loud one-liners, simmering sexual tension and heartfelt confessions.

Strangers in Between cast: Stephen-Connery-Brown, Matthew Mitcham and Alex Ansdell. Photo by Nick Brittan

The play is produced by Richard Lambert’s Lambco Productions at the Golden Goose Theatre, Camberwell, London from 19 September to 7 October. Tickets HERE

The multi-award winning Eve: About Her stars its creator, the outrageously talented Keith Ramsay. The show is billed as a “fever dream of ambition, fury, fire and song”. Born from a fascination with the 1950 Joseph L Mankiewicz movie All About Eve, it won the Stage Edinburgh Award for Acting Excellence in 2022 for his performance.

It was said of the show: “he’s thrown Hollywood’s great icons into a blender with a dash of everything from Shakespeare and Dante to Marianne Faithful, then pressed ‘pulse”. It plays at the Soho Theatre, London, 24-26 August. Tickets HERE

The oldest queer theatre company in the UK, Homo Promos, recently turned down for an Arts Council grant, is nevertheless proceeding with crowdfunding and other donations to give two performances of its new opera, 1944: Home Fires. It’s a chamber piece featuring the life of gay composer Ivor Novello, who was banged up in Wormwood Scrubs for fiddling his petrol coupons.

He shares a cell with gangster homophobe ‘mad’ Frankie Fraser. They each fight their fears to survive. Music by Robert Ely; words by Peter Scott-Presland. It will play at the Cockpit Theatre, London on 3 September and at the Tower Theatre on 6 September. More info HERE

Actor, singer, producer, director Tim McArthur has penned and is directing his latest play Deeper And Deeper at the Union Theatre, Southwark, produced by Above The Stag.

A gay couple, Paul and Joe, live together in Camden in the 1990s. When they need flat sharers, things get hot and complicated. It’s the story of the interrelationship of five men over 15 years. Tim told me: “it’s a story of flirtation, secrets and changing relationships. It was nurtured during the pandemic, then developed through Zoom readings, public presentations and a week-long workshop. I think it’s now ready”. Tickets HERE

West London’s Playground Theatre has a season of works featuring stories about women and the LGBTQ+ community. It opens with a double bill of forbidden love stories. Artefact tells the story of First Lady Priscilla, who finds an unopened letter from her former college roommate Julia, declaring her love for her – some 25 years earlier. It’s coupled with Tennessee WilliamsSomething Unspoken – a tale of repressed love and desire set in 1950s Mississippi. The two plays run 14-30 September.

Ruby Wax

Writer, comedian, mental health campaigner Ruby Wax will appear in her own show I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was from 7 – 9 September. Ruby describes it as “a journey to find peace, happiness – the stuff we’re all chasing”. Tickets for the season HERE

Cabaret, musical theatre songs, politics, queer theatre and circus combine in a stunning new musical Trompe L’Oeil. It’s inspired by avant grade art, including Magritte’s apples and Dali’s Melting Clocks. It will play at the Other Palace Studio, London 28 September – 15 October. Tickets HERE

Holby City’s David Paisley returns to the stage to lead in Adam Zane’s Jock Night at London’s Seven Dials Playhouse. The show has been called “razor sharp, skewering modern gay life but done with compassion, intelligence and hope”.

David Paisley

The play casts a a light on mental health, peeling back the veneer of modern queer culture and unfolding over a year of wild nights in Manchester’s vibrant Gay Village. David is best known for playing Holby midwife Ben Saunders, whose on-screen same-sex kiss sparked conversations nationwide. The play runs 9 October – 4 November. Tickets HERE

Finally, I found a gem on BBC iplayer. In 1981 political playwright Bertolt Brecht’s first play with songs was broadcast. Written in 1918, Baal centres on a scruffy, often drunk, womanising poet and ballad singer whose future seems doomed. It was a stroke of genius to cast pop icon David Bowie in the title role. And his enigmatic personality gives the play a queer undertone as he travels the land with a handsome male companion. It’s mesmerising stuff. Watch it.