Mark Gatiss’ Queers – a set of monologues has lost none of its power since premiering in 2017
“He knows me for what I am”
I couldn’t make the theatrical readings of Queers at the Old Vic, so I was glad that filmed versions of them were made (for airing on BBC4). Ricocheting around the decades of the twentieth century, this set of monologues marked 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21, and aimed to celebrate some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male experience.
Pulled together by Mark Gatiss, these 8 20-minute pieces are ostensibly set in the same bar but run the full gamut of emotion as we shift around in time. There’s exquisite moments of happiness in lives otherwise marked by despair. The fleeting touch from Gatiss’ The Man on the Platform so achingly described by Ben Whishaw, the heady night spent with an American soldier by Ian Gelder’s omi in Matthew Baldwin’s I Miss the War.
And there’s sharper moments of devastating revelation too. Rebecca Front’s wife discovering her husband’s true proclivities in Jon Bradfield’s Missing Alice. Or Russell Tovey’s 80s actor dealing with his lover’s late dsiclosure of his status, in Brian Fillis’ More Anger. Crucially though, no-one’s defined by these solely, even in the short space of time allotted, there’s nuance and scope, Front’s Alice finding a happy co-existence with her partner for example.
I really enjoyed A Grand Day Out by Michael Dennis, with Fionn Whitehead’s Nottingham lad telling of his love for Derek Jarman and Bullseye inbetween describing being part of the age of consent protests. And similarly on the forfront of a moment of social change Keith Jarrett’s Safest Spot in Town finds Kadiff Kirwan recounting a strange moment of acceptance, of sorts, in wartime Britain. And Gemma Whelan is predictably great in Jackie Clune’s gender-bendingThe Perfect Gentleman. Powerful stuff all-round.