It is always a pleasure to return to a theatre after your debut visit and it was nice to return to Liverpool’s fridge theatre venue, The Casa, for another presentation of LGBT entertainment, this time in the form of ‘Queertet’ - four playlets performed by Liverpool-based LGBTQ theatre company, Grin Theatre, for their annual 'Queertet' show. A kind of pre-pride display of LGBT life in readiness for the city’s pride festival this weekend.
We entered the auditorium with no prior knowledge of what we were about to witness, with an open mind and a warning that there would be strong language, nudity and scenes of a sexual nature. As I might have expected, most, if not all of the audience, were from the LGBT community or allies and no-one was under 18. We also had no prior knowledge of the experience of the performers but were handed a sheet with the names of the four pieces and the cast members.
First up, on the open stage, we see Brodie (James Jarman, who also directed) - leading man of our first ‘short’ entitled ‘Second Best’ (written by Will Cooper) - an abstract title perhaps until the closing lines of the script. The story follows his ex-infatuation with straight former housemate Cal (James Bray) who enters and declares that he and his girlfriend Tash (Annie Charnock) - a somewhat typical/common name for a friend/ally of LGBT people - are trying for a baby but he is infertile. The story unfolds as we are introduced to the characters, including Brodie’s camped-up Vic (Gerard McLaughlin) who is against the idea of having his own children, and, upon hearing of her partner’s problem, suggests that Brodie be a donor. Having accepted and done the deed, he develops feelings and a ‘postnatal’ paternity follows, so much so that he tries to prevent the child’s parents from moving away abroad to take up a job promotion. The piece is well-written and thought out - costume changes and entrances, etc. Although I did note that there was a lack of black-out between two of the scenes in which the characters who had just exited re-entered in different clothes and there was one present between every other), executed well by most of the cast although there were a few moments when actions didn’t appear as natural as they could have been. Jarman is the star of this piece, displaying the right emotions, bringing out the main plot theme and with good comedy timing in parts.
Next was my least favourite of the four pieces, ‘Mates Rates’. Not because of the acting particularly but the mere concept and slight predictability. Why anyone, least of all stereotypical bitchy gays (not my view, that of the common outsider), would have a ‘breaking up party’ seems bizarre to me, especially when both parties of the break-up are present and trying to pretend to enjoy themselves. Nonetheless we open with part one of the couple Aiden (Daniel Scott) and their lesbian friend Sam (Roxanne Male) whilst, part two of the couple, Mark (Henry Zirpolo) is in the kitchen off-stage and Aiden’s rather handsome brother Ben (Dean Horrocks, who did well considering he was only cast two weeks ago) lays on the floor in front of them, trying to control his intoxication and sleep, between interjections and demands for a bacon sandwich. Whilst I suspect the story is more of a comedy, there are (intended) poignant points and the two lads inevitably get back together. With a few technical components (timing of sound effects) and polishing, this has the potential to be good but I simply didn’t enjoy it, as much as I would have, and suspect that others in the audience experienced confusion and saw when the under-rehearsed parts seemed like ad libs. Whilst the acting was good, and seemed natural, the concept didn’t work for me although Wes Williams’ script was getting there (until the ‘drunken(?)’ attempt to get back together). I would like to thank the cast and wish them well done.
After the interval, third in line was perhaps the most revealing of all - in more ways than one. Giving insight into the world of dating and secrets of the ‘dark’ gay world of dating and acts, we are treated to Stuart Crowther’s ‘Things I Can’t Say Without Tasting Your Cum’, portrayed in the nude by Liam Murphy and Leonidas Pan playing themselves. A somewhat refreshing invitation into the world of absurdity, it was well-written and directed (by Sean Goss) and immediately broke down the fourth wall, with some nice moments of physical theatre inspired, I am told, by Berkoff. A nice use of props (and lots of lube), as well as the repetition and real-life thought-provoking scenarios, brought us back down to earth, after luring us into a false sense of security in the initial stages. We were put at ease yet the actors are giving it their all, making them physically exhausted. A very well-constructed and performed piece.
Finally we concluded with Will Cooper and Wes Williams’ collaboration for ‘Birthday Girl’. Directed by Daniel Scott, who we saw earlier, there are a number of reasons this final creation was the most polished. Featuring on-stage sisters Zoe (Abigail McKenzie) and Jules (Daryl Rowlands) and her wife Mel (Jazz Jugo) and set in a club, during a night out for Zoe’s 30th, we again felt involved and part of the action with the occasional absence of the fourth wall, as each character periodically expressed their minds. The longest expression was from - the star for me - Zoe who’s dilemma was whether to disclose her past life to her boyfriend on their fifth date,interspersed between talk about their (other) brother and the couple having tiffs, mainly because of the flirtatious waitress (Alishia Killian). Played very naturally by all three, this was a joy to watch and a lovely way to end the night. There were only a few continuity issues and the soundtrack that played under to provide atmosphere had this incessant beeping..
Overall, I had an enjoyable experience and can't wait to return for next year’s Queertet. Here’s to a safe and enjoyable Pride for all, including Liverpool's longest running LGBT+ theatre company.
Reviewer - John Kristof
on - 26/7/18