As Pride 2021 rolls around, we knew we had to celebrate. In 2020, a pandemic halted everyone’s pride. We still celebrated, reflected, learnt, commemorated and educated, but we were separated. You’ve heard it time and time again by now – ‘together but separate’. However, as we see restrictions lifting and life returning (dare I say it) back to normal, together really can mean together. Theatre is an incredibly raw medium with the potential to face current issues head-on. Historically, theatre and performance have challenged the status quo and taken risks that many other forms of entertainment daren’t. It is for these reasons that during June, and every month, we should be actively engaging with queer artists.
Theatre is activism. Emphasis on the ‘act’. Inciting change is a theatre-maker’s bread and butter. The Greenhouse produces environmental theatre that fosters genuine human connections to encourage more sustainable choices and lifestyles. ⅔ of our executive team identify as LGBTQ, so the art we create isn’t just ecoconscious, it’s also queer. While we are known to gender-bend our plays, and continually subvert hetero-normative expectations of sexuality and relationships in our plays, this is not the main focus of our work right now. However, there are lots of incredible companies actively engaging and working with a diverse range of people from the LGBTQIA+ community. There are many theatres, mainly in London, that have made moves to popularise work by LGBTQIA+ individuals. The Apollo debuted Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in 2017 with much success. In that same year, The National ran its Queer Theatre season to mark 50 years since the beginning of decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. These types of performances have worked wonders to increase the visibility of minorities and diversify an industry with a historic tradition of centring white, heterosexual, cis-men.
And yet, it’s not nearly enough. In a 2019-20 report by Arts Council England, they recognise that only ‘a small number’ of people that work for organisations they fund are LGBT+. Additionally, The National has a whole page on their website dedicated to diversity in their organisation. They list impressive statistics of what they’ve achieved or will achieve for women and people of colour, while there is no information regarding their LGBTQIA+ community. There is a popular misconception that the arts is dominated by overtly camp queer individuals. While the arts community remains more liberal and welcoming than most, there are still huge barriers for minorities. A Stonewall 2018 report stated that “more than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination”. As in any industry, it is the palatable and marketable that take centre stage.
One of the best ways to support queer artists is to view, fund and interact with their work. One place where queer voices have always been able to flourish is off of the main stages, at independent fringe venues. This Pride month, we at Greenhouse have collated a list of our favourite companies and shows to keep an eye out for and support.
Mae Martin is a name I’m sure we’ve all heard at this point with the roaring success of the Netflix comedy Feel Good. Mae tackles topics of queer love, addiction and gender dysphoria in the rawest way. Mae is touring the UK this winter with a comedy lineup.
Lauryn Redding is an incredibly talented actor, writer and composer based in the North. As a proud lesbian, her latest gig musical Bloody Elle centres on a heart-warming first love story. Bloody Elle is showing right now at the Royal Exchange in Manchester until 17th July 2021.
Scottee & Friends is a theatre company headed by the artistic director Scottee. It is a self-proclaimed “bunch of fat, queer, common femmes and fags” creating activism through a range of performance genres. Find them on Instagram to keep an eye out for the projects they have in the works right now!
Slacker Girls (Tanika Maya Lay and Scarlett Wood) is a new theatre company that debuted their first show this year despite the COVID-shaped obstacles! Bathwater was a show that centred stories of lesbianism, heteronormativity and queer coding. As part of the Vault Festival 2021 these legends enjoyed an incredibly successful run. Follow @sweet.taniks over on Instagram to see what’s next.
Hotel Elsewhere are a group of LGBTQIA+ artists who create immersive performances. One of their signature shows called Memory Cafe worked with using scents to evoke memory. Additionally, they have a podcast called Through the Attic Door available on Spotify, Youtube, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
Above The Stag is an independent venue in London supporting the LGBT+ community. It has currently programmed two shows by queer artists such as Tommy on Top and Contact: Stories of Divison and Unity. Above The Stag creates a safe space for the queer community to share their art and tell their stories through the form of theatre, cabaret, comedy, and much more.