Writer: James Ley
Director: Ros Philips
Reviewer: Emily Hall
Edinburgh needs Love Song to Lavender Menace. Not only a stunningly beautiful play, but an essential portrait of LGBTQ+ life in the capital in the 1980s. This Royal Lyceum run is an indispensable cultural event for a city with a vivacious queer community, an internationally renowned theatre scene and too many stories left untold.
Edinburgh local James Ley wrote the script with the help of Playwright’s Studio Scotland as part of a LGBT History Month Scottish Cultural Commission. The story undertakes the ambitious mission of recognizing historical figures and struggles that have been left out of the city’s mainstream narrative, and in doing so touch on the inarticulable need to have one’s story told.
The curtain opens on bookshop clerks Lewis and Glen as they work on an homage to the shop’s founders, Bob and Sigrid, who accomplished the revolutionary feat of having an open space for queer Edinburgers to find stories about people like them; literature about their community, the books that you have to approach nervously at the library or scrounge for in secondhand bookshops, or the books that aren’t available in the U.K. at all, specially ordered from queer publishing houses in America.
As Lewis and Glen try to navigate the emotional struggles of the past, they face more modern demons. What does it mean to leave Edinburgh? Why is it so hard for some people to find love? The AIDs epidemic is heartrendingly juxtaposed with the modern gentrification claiming queer spaces all the while the books on the shelves decrease in number, the suitcases grow fuller and Lavender Menace, the shop that meant the world to so many people, comes closer to closing its doors.
Pierce Reid and Glen Matthew vividly animate Lewis and Glen respectively and hilariously portray a number of eclectic characters along the way as they assemble their homage. They are witty, they are savvy, they are full of personality, history and opinions.
The show’s humour is built on the alchemy of perfect timing, immaculate chemistry, irresistible nostalgia and irreplaceable character comedy. Director Ros Philips constantly evokes Edinburgh with tone and balances countless city-specific references with accessible comedy and poignant moments that no foreigner could resist.
This one of a kind play manages to at once be the perfect introduction to the most basic LGBTQ+ issues, brilliantly illustrated through well-written, relatable characters and a nuanced retelling of the complex emotional and political issues facing Edinburgh’s queer community today, captured through an outrageous, sexy lens.
Runs until: 21 October 2017 | Image: Aly Wight