Queer All About It, an evening of film, performance, discussion and conversation, is a celebration of diverse LGBTQ+ stories and new perspectives by five emerging LGBTQ+ writers.
The programme was created by Green Carnation Company, working with film-makers Bloody Bandit Production and local performers. This featured on the first week programme of Hope Mill Theatre’s annual LGBTQIA+ theatre festival Turn On Fest.
The stand out films of this production are ‘Draw Four’ by Lorna Rose Treen and ‘Prove It’ by Lynsey Cullen. Draw Four explores the changing perceptions around HIV and AIDs. In this film, we see a young women remembering a game of UNO around her Gran’s kitchen table when she was little. Her Mum tells them a neighbour has died from AIDS – an assumption she has made simply because he was gay. The dialogue is clever and has some wonderful one liners (for example about a Morrisey Tattoo), and makes clever use of tic-tacs, first as scoring counters for the game, and later as a little blue pill that stops transmission of HIV. The short video explores perceptions of people with HIV, from assumptions that it was a gay plague, to gay men being prevented from giving blood, to the current world where those who are HIV+ can be open about it and feel protected. Such massive steps have been made in a relatively short period of time (the lifetime of the woman telling her story).
Prove It is the most thought-provoking film in the series. A women has come to Britain from El Salvador, seeking asylum, escaping an arranged marriage and persecution because she is gay. The clock is ever present throughout the film, emphasising the fact she has to prove she is gay in the allotted time for her interview – just 45 minutes. She has had to hide the fact she is gay all through her life. There are not photos or messages to provide as evidence of her relationship with another woman, as the consequences of them being found would be grave. So how can she prove it? Her dream was never to come to Britain – she just wants to stop pretending she is someone she is not, and to stop being scared. This is a view on something many of us just take for granted – to be allowed to be who we are – which is impossible for scared and lonely LBGTQ+ people in so many other countries.
While these two stories and films are excellent the programme as a whole was a bit of a mixed bag. The evening was co-hosted by co-artistic directors Dan Ellis and Dan Jarvis. I understand their wish to convey their thought processes, interviews and the collaborations undertaken in development of each story, but their self-deprecating humour was a distraction, and perhaps in future, better kept well and truly behind the scenes.
The first performance left me completely confused and prepared to turn off straight away. It felt like the sole aim of the monologue was to squeeze in as many swear words as possible – if it had been the F word Olympics – a gold medal would have been awarded! Was it meant to shock? It didn’t – it just felt unnecessary and an excuse for not writing better dialogue. The title ‘Fluid’ and performed by Nick Maynard, explored fluidity of sexuality. I really felt that this subject could have been done without all the anger and aggression, and in doing so would have elicited much greater understanding and acceptance than this performance.
Lunchboxes by Matt Gurr explored the experience of being a gay dad to a little girl and the prejudices encountered by both. I did at one point shout at the screen – ‘get a grip man’, and the father’s process of making tuna sandwiches left a lot to be desired – after delicately buttering the bread, adding tuna and then completely squashing the whole thing – leaving a man-sized handprint on the final product!
The fact that 5 films were recorded during the past 12 months of Covid has to be applauded. However, my final gripe, one of the host’s said: ‘and along came Little Miss Covid’ – why does he think it should be given a female gender? Let’s not play down the serious impact this virus has, and is having, on the theatre industry and on the lives of every one of us, every day. The pandemic is not something to be taken lightly (as per a Little Miss character). The co-hosts need to ensure their script is as carefully crafted as that of the films in future.
Queer All About it was streamed on 19 March as part of Hope Mill Theatre‘s Turn on Fest 2021.