Kings Head Theatre Queer Season 2017

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Coming Clean, Kevin Elyot’s first professionally produced play, looks at the breakdown of a gay couple’s relationship and examines complex questions of fidelity and love.

It was first performed pre AIDS at the Bush Theatre, London, on 3 November 1982.

Now it is being revived for its 35th Anniversary into The King’s Head Theatre 2017 Queer Season; a curated 9 week programme of LGBTQI Theatre opening in July.

King’s Head Theatre’s Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher directs this first London revival of Kevin Elyot’s play that questions fidelity and the limits of love written before his hit play ‘My Night With Reg’, a noted classic of  queer theatre.

bullandgateThe play is set in a flat in Kentish Town, north London, in 1982. Struggling writer Tony and his partner of five years, Greg, seem to have the perfect relationship. Committed and in love, they are both open to one-night stands as long as they don’t impinge on the relationship. But Tony is starting to yearn for something deeper, something more like monogamy. When he finds out that Greg has been having a full-blown affair with their cleaner, Robert, their differing attitudes towards love and commitment become clear.

In 1970 I moved to Dartmouth Park Hill near Tufnell Park tube close to Kentish Town, so was asked where the characters would have cottaged, drank, cruised and found sexual partners as part of character development.

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Set in pre-AIDS 1982, I was asked by the Director to speak to the cast about Gay Life in the 60’s and 70’s so they could develop character parts and ask questions about their respective character backgrounds, so I started out sharing what information about queers were available during criminalisation and what it was like when I came out in 1967 and the background to it. It was a bit of a hoot really talking for almost 90 mins with them scribbling notes and developing production ideas. They were only 3 days into rehearsal, and no one was around in 1982 so it was an eager audience.

We discussed Cottaging, Dirk Bogarde films ACCIDENT & VICTIM, Polari, Politics, The Colhearne, Earls Court Gay Scene in the 60’s, Zipper, HIM Magazine, Crisco, COLT Porn Mags, Poppers, pills, Hampstead Heath, Jack Straw’s Castle, BANGS and Marlboro Red Lights tucked into Capped T shirt sleeves. It was like memory lane. 

Check out all the plays in the season here and get OFF your phone for a while.

http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com

 

Tell the truth faster

brokeback-mountainFollowing on from a past blog on Lazy Dating it makes sense to learn to be authentically yourself, not perform for other people’s needs. Gays have got used to ‘editing’ for years, to protect themselves and others, but telling the truth faster reaps rewards, especially in higher esteem and successful relationships. Way before Brokeback Mountain hit our screens, when Madonna divorced Sean Penn, and ‘Like A Prayer’ was upsetting The Pope, I was mid-drift in a three year Relationship Training Programme to be a Relationship Coach, all before Life Coaching, Rehab and botox became celebrity badges of honour.

So there I was in a room of over 150 participants in a smart hotel, queuing up for the microphone to state my relationship status, in front of all concerned. Hours passed, tears were shred as heterosexual after heterosexual stumbled onto the stage in various tones of voice. Some confidently booming out “I am happily married in a successful relationship,” shy sharers whispered “I’m not in a relationship at the moment,” while “it’s complicated,” or “I’ve never had one” superseded “I’m in a relationship and can’t get out of it.” Identifying sighs and nodding heads rippled the room at that last one.

med_bars-304284-Ecco-Restaurant-and-Martini-Bar-gayebo-ddfb8Over 50 people had gone up to declare and share, but not one gay man, no lesbian or bisexual had opened their soul so far, as my entry to the stage got shorter and shorter. Then I blurted out “I am an out gay man looking for an out gay man for a relationship.” I thought the floor was going to open up.

I still remember the silence and my pulsing vulnerable heart. This prompted me later to re-consider how OUT I really was, where I was out and how I approached always being the odd one out, the token, the ‘brave one.’ I always dreaded those personal development workshops, back then, when you were the ‘only gay in the seminar’ and some grey-haired pony tail wearing hippie would embrace me and say “I’m bisexual – I understand man.” At which point I would perform a verbal diatribe starting with: “No. You don’t.” This was way before the internet and *bi-curious, men who have sex with men, hard-up str8 boys and gay for pay porn sites,* so forgive my snarling, it was a difficult sexual climate when all around were dying of AIDS and you were either gay or you weren’t in the public imagination. Thankfully we have moved on beyond this stereotype.

gay-cruisingSo when it came to ‘being OUT,’ it was suggested I did some written work on relationships starting with family, friends, neighbours, and work colleagues. Did I act differently with different people, who did I edit conversation with, and what situations made me feel inadequate? How was my social life divided up into genders and sexualities? Is there balance?

Soon I discovered that I skirted round ‘relationship stuff’ within my practitioner training as having a ‘Loving Relationship’ was the goal. In rooms of heterosexuals I clammed up over late night cruising in darkrooms and parklands totally enjoying group sex, voyeuristic sex and quick sex which appeared to be the opposite to what most people were seeking.

Gratefully I was encouraged by the trainers to share how I felt more spiritually connected in a darkroom than a church, more aware of my sexuality on an open heath at midnight than being coupled at that time. I was taught over those training years that authenticity was more valuable than performance, that truth was more essential than editing, that everything changes over time and that finding your voice instead of people pleasing, heals codependency. Our lives are constantly up for review, but the most important path to follow is one of authenticity, truth and love. The relationship you have with yourself is the first relationship to seek, to understand, because you can’t give away what you haven’t got.

6a00d8341c730253ef00e54f61bff58834-640wiI suggest you find a few moments to OUT yourself to yourself, to own up where you stumble, where you fake it, where you just about make it, to write a few things down. Telling the truth faster to yourself never fails in my book. 

Who could ever forget Ennis fingering the deceased Jack Twist’s flannel shirt in that bare room, remembering Brokeback and what might have been, if courage had been a true companion. Sadly, many countries today are like 60s America, suppressed and unsafe for gay men to be authentic in front of others, but a film like Brokeback may have lifted their hearts and encouraged authenticity in themselves, to be truthful whatever they deem their sexuality to be. I hope so.

To finish, here is a list of Brokeback Mountain quotes that stirred my soul for you to savour.