London: The Theater Revolution

The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), August 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

London: The Theater Revolution


How did the British theater become so queer? Shakespeare helped the gay launch by inventing the kind of moony, hypersensitive, casually suicidal, drama-queen protagonists who weren't just dead ringers for your best friends but also pioneering gay prototypes. Restoration fops picked up the baton, and by the time Noel Coward was defining the arch tone for modern British comedy, matched by his permanently arched eyebrows, English theater was swishing so wildly it just couldn't stop.

The result today is probably the most homo-heavy performance lineup of any commercial medium. Take a look at the recent season of London theater--from the experimental performance spaces to the grande dame West End theaters--and almost every production trails at least some queer whiff. Among the hits: a fresh revival of the homo warhorse Cabaret; Equus, starring a postpubescent, hairier Harry Potter stripping off; the long-running Billy Elliot, whose "little boy wants to be a dancer" story line speaks to every gay man in the teary-eyed audience; the two-gay-icons-for-the-price-of-one production of The Lady From Dubuque, written by Edward Albee and offering a transcendently hammy Maggie Smith; and a revival of Kiss of the Spider Woman. Over at the Drill Hall, a gay performance space, Take Me With You was exploring the long-running battle between religion and homosexuality in contemporary America, and the debut of Twisted at the Oval House was depicting a drug-fueled gay weekend gone wrong. The butchest play of the lot was a new production of The Sound of Music--if you can call boys in sailor suits, sleigh bells and kittens, and a purely asexual heroine, clearly more at home with the nuns, a manly experience.

None of this gay theatrical outpouring surprises playwright Martin Sherman, whose pioneering play Bent was recently restaged in London, starring Alan Cumming as one of the two gay concentration camp inmates. The play's British homecoming is fitting.

"England experimented with openly gay plays before America did," Sherman notes, "and Bent debuted in London in 1979 to tremendous word of mouth. At that time there was no such thing as a gay play on Broadway."

And London's reputation for assuming risks has continued. "People take more chances here," Sherman stresses, "and playwrights are able to produce plays without endlessly workshopping them here, partly because in England we have subsidized theater."

The result isn't just strong gay theater but something more substantial; London is probably home now to the most ambitiously experimental, creative theater of any kind, anywhere in the world. That means the city doesn't just attract serious playwrights but also lures England's best young actors, including Chris New, whose personal trajectory is a barometer of how gay West End theater has become. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

London: The Theater Revolution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.