Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

This Year's Thing

Nicole Dolder, Andrea McKenzie & Martin Walker
The Luvvies
The Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh
(2009)

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Forty years on from the Stonewall riots and Judy Garland's funeral, the Luvvies invite you to Judy's, a fictional Edinburgh gay bar. This weekend is also Pride Scotia so the timing couldn't be better, although some of the audience are suffering from the previous day's festivities.

Not only is the timing perfect, so is the venue: the cabaret bar makes the audience feel part of the show. There is cabaret, in fact Cabaret sung by Josie (Kat Folan), an acerbic lesbian who works as a Lisa Minnelli impersonator at Judy's.

There are also songs from Shona Brodie, David Dalzell as 'Davina' and the group 101 Damnations, all of whom give great performances, uplifting and entertaining. You would be wrong in thinking though this is a mere cabaret night - the play is anything but frivolous.

Skipping back in time to Edinburgh circa the Stonewall riots in New York, Laura (Ajay Lu) is brutally beaten by the police for being a transsexual and taunting one of the officers about his sexuality.

The beating sends shivers down the spine, especially as the police captain (Michael Mills) is so real and so scary as he eggs his junior officer (Dalzell) not to stand for the abuse. After the songs and trivialities of the twenty-first century action, it comes as quite a shock to the system.

Back to the future, Judy's are organising an event to mark the Stonewall riots. They have invited two speakers, Anthony Childs (Roger Burroughs) a veteran campaigner and, returning to Edinburgh after many years absence, the still mouthy but matured Laura (Nicole Dolder).

Childs delivers a moving and informative speech about the riots that occurred at the Stonewall Inn in New York in the summer of '69. As with the singing, the engagement with the audience is very strong and this involvement really gave the venue a really pleasant inclusive atmosphere.

The play was also successful in including characters from across the LGBT community, in particular transsexuals and bisexuals, who often take a back seat to the L's and G's. The jokes about the Edinburgh 'scene' of today were also pretty spot-on and deserving.

Burroughs gives a great performance as Childs not only with his Stonewall speech but also in his attempt to apologise to Laura after she outs him for a second time. It seems like a slightly far-fetched plot twist - the veteran gay campaigner was the violent young policeman - but then closets are a breeding ground for homophobia. Burroughs makes you feel sympathy for his character, despite the horror of the events shown at the beginning of the play.

Both Laura and Childs are haunted by their past selves, a very effective device, especially as there are a very believable similarities between the pairs of actors. Laura is incited to revenge by her former self. Nicole Dolder, the older Laura, also co-wrote the play, particularly the part of Laura, and in performance she shows Laura's frustration well, but is slightly strained in getting really angry.

After the participatory feel of the piece, the finale is suitably in your face, the cabaret bar is raided by the police, surrounding the audience in riot gear. Forty years on we are reminded that the LGBT community is still under attack from the authorities in many parts of the globe.

I felt lucky, lucky to be safe from persecution, but also lucky to have been a part of this moving theatrical experience.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin