Jez Dolan, stand-up, lecturer and expert on Polari, has joined forces with writer and tour guide, Joshua Val Martin to create Double-Ender, a fast-paced double bill of monologues sharing stories about Queer people in a rapidly changing Manchester, in which audiences can brush up their Polari. But what exactly is Polari? We ask Jez to explain:
What is Polari?
“Polari has been referred to as ’the lost language of gay men’ and was a coded way of speaking. Predominantly but not exclusively used by gay men in England between the 1920’s and the 1970’s. Polari was a way of disguising (homo)sexuality pre-(partial) legalisation in 1967, but was also a way for gay men to identify themselves to others. It is a combination of many other languages, slangs and parlances including, Romany, Yiddish, Backslang, Italian and many others”.
Why was it used?
“Gay men had to hide their identity until very recently and Polari was an effective way of doing this. Importantly Polari was also used by gay meant to identify each other. It was also a way of claiming a space as queer, and also as a way of showing off, demonstrating your knowledge and expertise in a queer way”.
Do people still use it today?
“It is hardly used today and many younger LGBTQIA+ people don’t know of its existence. Where people do know it, is generally from the 1960’s BBC radio programme ‘Round The Horne’ which featured two regular characters Julian & Sandy, played by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, who used Polari to great effect. Jules and Sand at the time represented one of the only positive views of gay men available”.
What can audiences expect from the play?
“Audiences can expect a great time! Loads of stories, some songs and music, some emotional moments and brushing up their Polari! Audience feedback has been incredibly positive so far!”
How does it connect to Manchester?
“The show connects to Manchester in loads of ways. Joshua Val Martin’s piece is entirely set in Manchester on the Free Manchester Walking Tours he runs. Bona to Vada Your Dolly Old Eek! Also contains lots of personal stories from Manchester, and we are both interested in how queer people shape the cultures of a city, how that is changing, and the idea of who owns history”.
What is your favourite Polari expression and what does it mean?
“My favourite phrase is: ‘Order lau your suppers on the strillers bona’ which means ‘play something nice on the piano.’ Fantabulosa!”