Theatre times: ‘Joto!: confessions of a Mexican outcast’ & ‘The Elephant Girls’


To the Outhouse theatre tonight to see another double bill at the 14th International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. For my viewing pleasure tonight was ‘Joto!: Confessions of a Mexican Outcast’ from Mexico, and ‘The Elephant Girls’ from Canada.

‘Joto!’ is the Spanish word for ‘faggot. Written and performed by Carlos Manuel, and presented by Teatro Travieso,  it is a one man show about the life of the writer growing up in Mexico and his later experiences after emigrating to the US. It is am amusing and troubling look at a life lived on the margins. Told with great warmth and humour, Manuel recounts his life growing up in Mexico, his early sexual experiences with his best friend, and how the nuns in Mexico seem to be cut from the same dank cloth as their sisters in Ireland.

As a young adult he moved to the US and lived as an undocumented migrant. He came out as gay in the US, but despite marriage equality reaching those shores (after he’d obtained his American citizenship), the struggles of life as a foreigner in post 9/11 America, and more acutely in the era of Trump it was hard to escape the fringes of society. His undocumented husband still faces an uncertain future.

It is a very honest account of a life as a gay migrant and is certainly topical in 2017.

I enjoyed this show. Recommended.

After a qwuick cup of tea it was back to my seat for ‘The Elephant Girls’. This is a Canadian play by Parry Riposte Productions. Written by and starring Margo MacDonald (who had a mysterious asterisk next to her name on the programme, which on closer inspection revealed that she was participating by permission of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association – that sounds stern) it is set in a London pub in 1937.

It tells the true story of an all female criminal gang who terrorized London between the wars.

Maggie Hale – retired – reveals to an unseen drinking buddy in a bar that she and her cohorts targeted the ritzy West End stores, looting with gay abandon.

Suited and booted in a trilby hat and gentleman’s suit, she tells of her friendship with gang leader Queen Alice Diamond, who ruled the gang with an iron discipline – the rules were simple – live close to the Elephant and Castle district (the place after which the gang was named); never grass to the police;  and never date outside the gang – although dating a member of the more thuggish male gangs was permitted

This last rule was difficult for many gang members and leads to trouble.

It is a brilliant play. The atmosphere is tense and enthralling- the 75 minutes passed in a flash. MacDonald give an outstanding performance, striding the stage and emitting an air of danger and menace.

The writing is astounding – painting a vivid picture of this violent, dangerous woman, who despite her penchant for violence is still very likeable.

This tale of a butch lesbian gangster in 1920s London is one of the best shows I have seen in recent times.

Highly recommended.

Joto! is showing at 7.30pm until Saturday 6th May. ‘The Elephant Girls’ is showing until the same date at 9pm.

Get your tickets at http://www.gaytheatre.ie – or on the door.

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