I feel lucky to have been at the debut performance of Wolf Hours, Minute Taker, aka Manchester-based Ben McGarvey, superb soundtrack to a series of short-film clips, made by a variety of film makers.
The show is designed to give a depiction of the inner-worlds of gay men at different points in time over the past century in the style of dream sequences. The film sequences depict all the things that go through the mind as we lie awake at night. The first film shows the close-up faces of a variety of gay men who have their eyes closed, supposedly asleep or thinking. This sets the scene very well for the short films that follow, which are the dreams of gay men, young and old and which are thought provoking throughout.
The performance gives a real insight into the struggles of gay people at various points in time over the past century. One film shows an old man in hospital taking his last breath, with his wife at his side, but his last thoughts are with a young man that he fought with in the Second World War. He had the chance to have a relationship, but turned his back on him, presumably due to the stigma of being gay back then. He regrets his actions as this other young man is killed in war. For all those years he has thought about him, and on his death, the fallen comrade is waiting for him, so having departed this world, he is free to spend eternity with him.
In another sequence we see the devastation that Aids caused in the 80s, with depictions of the Aids virus, the refusal of politicians to take action at the time, how the big pharmaceutical companies profited from the epidemic, and reminders of just how many gay men died.
Later on in the show, we see Pride marches and festivals around the world and the relative freedom that the LGBT community has today. This is in direct contrast to footage of gay men in the 40s and 50s seeking out like-minded men in cottaging situations, such as in the woods where other wolfs or wild animals (as the press at the time called queers) hang out.
There is one sequence in the show, where the film maker has spliced together show reels with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, where Minute Taker manages to time his synth music exactly to their dance movements – an absolutely wonderful film which lifts the audience after the more thought provoking films. The show is put together in a clever way, making us think hard at times, allowing us to be angry at times, but then brings us back up again.
Minute Taker plays piano and provides all other synthesised music, with his wonderful voice narrating our journey throughout with his clever vocals. His influences are apparent in his music, be that Kate Bush, David Bowie or Tori Amos. This live soundtrack is full of haunting melodies, electronic beats and otherworldly synths.
This show is not afraid to deal with any of the challenges that gay men have faced in their lifetimes. It manages to evoke every emotion, from angry, to sad, to happy, to relieved that we can all march at Pride festivals in the 21st century if we want to, and for it to be OK to be who we are.★ ★ ★ ★
Minute Taker: Wolf Hours is at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, opening 10-day arts festival, Refract:19 on 18-19 July 2019.