George Rennisons’ Gays in Plays celebrated LGBT playwrights in an expertly curated evening of celebration. The event included a selection of plays across the decades, ranging from the 1960s to present day. Assisted by Sian Evans, a tutor in Creative Writing at UEA, the informal event lent itself to learning, and it was clear from the audience’s final discussion that it had a profound impact.
George said he thought it “important to put the event on because nothing was being done in LDC to commemorate LGBT history month – FemFest is coming up and events were staged for black history month, so we thought we’d read some gay plays.”
His appreciation of complex LGBT discussions was clear from the breadth of material selected. The plays ranged from addressing homosexuality as a crime in Staircase, to Tinder culture in Fifty Years and drag queens in Weldon Rising. The evening’s playwrights included; Charles Dyer (Staircase, performed by Ralph Yarrow and Rob Little), Jackie Kay (Twice Over, performed by Phoebe Wood, Sophie Vici & Charlotte McEvoy), Phyllis Nagy (Weldon Rising, performed by Phoebe, Sophie, Harrison Cole and Louis Raghunathan), Alexi Kaye Campbell (The Pride, performed by Tom Monahan and Phoebe), George Rennison (Androphilia, performed by Harrison, Louis and Sophie) and James McDermott (Fifty Years, performed by Tom and Alex McNally.)
Androphillia, which was written by George, sharply focused on homosexuality through a modern lens. Set at a campus university (reminiscent of UEA), the play tackled what he considers to be the most pressing contemporary challenge for the gay community. Following the work from the 1960s which he identified as “all about hiding and not being discovered” his work considered the inverse, the hyper-visibility of homosexuality. George said when researching the plays he found “the later work is much more overt, dealing with the positive and negative fallout of gay rights.” Therefore, he felt it important to discuss liberation and visibility in modern day.
Each play was introduced to contextualise the excerpts and done so in a manner which allowed them to stand alone. However, George believes he can do better in his selection: “The transgender side was distinctly missing from the event: trans writers simply have not had the platform to express themselves properly, and this is something we discussed in the event, hoping that in the future an event like this would be able to include more trans voices.”
Gay’s in Plays did exactly what it says on the tin. It’s simplistic, and informal approach accessibly tackled the ever developing discussions within the LGBT community. I hope I have the privilege of seeing it again.