Theatre times: ‘Gypsy Queen’ and ‘Queers’

Week two of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival kicked off in town this evening. Now that I am a man of leisure I decided to check out some of the shows in the exciting second week programme. The festival takes place in several venues about town. Each has a double bill every night. For my delectation this evening I selected ‘Gypsy Queen’ and ‘Queers’ at the Players Theatre in Trinity College.

I was looking forward to ‘Gypsy Queen’. Written by and starring Rob Ward who performed in the fantastic ‘Away from home’ at last year’s festival, it tells the tale of ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell – an English bare knuckle fighter from an Irish Traveller background – and Dale Samson (played by Ryan Clayton)- an openly gay boxer. George enters the professional sport – being trained by Dale’s father. Complications ensue as the the two boxers eyes meet across the boxing ring. Will Dale find the strength to come out to the world beyond the confines of his gym? Will George be able to reconcile his true self with the challenges of his background?

It is a wonderful play. The dialogue is sharp and hilarious. The actors are an engaging and entertaining duo, clearly enjoying this exciting and thought provoking show. The two boxers are the main characters but each actor plays several supporting roles, changing costume and character onstage while the other actor is speaking. I especially enjoyed Clayton in his role as George’s Irish Mammy. He nailed the Irish accent – it sounded very convincing (although it veered occasionally from Dublin brogue to a Norn Iron twang). The pacing was fast and it held my interest throughout. And there was a bit of gratuitous nudity – always the best type.

Will these characters find happiness and peace? Will they escape the morning show of a cartoon film with their dignity intact?  Go see it to find out.

I was slightly apprehensive about the subject matter – I have zero interest in the sport of boxing. Grown men whacking each other about the face is an absurd ‘sport’. It’s a scam for bookies, I’d have thought. My fears were baseless. ‘Gypsy Queen’ is excellent and highly recommended.

Following the standard fifteen minute turnaround we trooped back into the theatre for ‘Queers’ by Dragonflies Theatre from London.  As I took my seat a gentleman approached and said ‘Sorry for interrupting you, but I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your show last week. I saw you outside and wanted to tell you.’  I graciously thanked him, while my inner peacock preened itself.

Written by Patrick Cash and directed by Peter Darney (who directed the sensational ‘5 guys chilling’ from last year’s festival) this play is about a motley crew of characters living in London. Like ‘Gypsy Queen’ the six actors play various roles. From Patricia Primarche – a ropy drag queen and Celine Dion impersonator returning to her rural hometown after the death of her father; to lesbian activist and tattoo artist PJ; to drunk old Tom in the Fag Ash bar who forms an unlikely friendship with the aging Soho barman Danny – who is having conniptions at the thought that he will soon be twenty seven; to Sapphire – a character who dares to be both black and trans on the streets of Dalston.

While the performers were all strong and convincing the play itself felt slightly disjointed. This is to do perhaps with the fact that the characters stories are told in loosely linked vignettes rather than a linear narrative. I wanted more from Trashbag Trish and Danny and Tom, but their moment in the spotlight was brief.

It ends on a sombre note after a tragic event, with a powerful rallying cry for vigilance and empathy between our diverse communities.

Despite my above stated quibbles this is a strong show and well worth checking out.

‘Gypsy Queen’ plays at 7.30pm until May 13th and ‘Queers’ plays at 9pm until the same date. Both are staged at the Players’ Theatre in Trinity College. There’s also a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm and 4pm.

Buy your tickets on http://www.gaytheatre.ie – tickets also available at the door.

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