Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 603

2 J UNE 202 2 39 BOOK IT NOW Quentin Letts Seraphina, an 18thcentury gentleman’s servant whose legacy is entwined with Vauxhall’s gay culture, to Yoyo, a Kuala Lumpur-based lesbian punk rocker, challenging her country’s homophobic laws today. Homo Sapiens, cohosted by director-producer Chris Sweeney and actor Alan Cumming, delivers intelligent, informative and fun conversations that represent the interests of LGBTQIA+ people around the world, with guests such as actor Stephen Fry, comedianHannah Gadsby, screenwriter and producer Russell TDavies and Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon. In its ‘agony uncles’ segment, Chris and Alan respond to questions from anonymous listeners. Outward, from the American news and arts magazine Slate, is amonthly podcast which aims to deepen the audience’s understanding of queer culture and politics. The theatre critic applauds freedom on stage loud and proud The Ministry of Lesbian A airs at Soho Theatre You don’t have to belong to an amateur choir to relish Soho Theatre’s new show, TheMinistry of Lesbian A airs, but it helps. A group of women forge friendships by singing in a comically rickety choir. They are gay, but that’s only part of the story. “What are you?” barks Connie, the oldfashioned, slightly sergeant-majorish choir leader. “A lesbian,” replies the woman she is talking to. “No!” harrumphs Connie. “What are you? Alto? Soprano?” Iman Qureshi’s touching play, enjoyable for those of us who are yowling tenors in village choirs, shows howmuch gay theatre has changed. A hundred years ago, playwrights such as Noël Coward andWSomerset Maughamhad to write in code. In Coward’s The Vortex (1924), gay love is represented as an addiction to cocaine. Things were little freer 30 years later. Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea (1952) depicts an unbalanced a air between a judge’s wife and an unstable younger man, inspired by an a air the writer had with a doomed actor, KennyMorgan. Rattigan was amaster of dramatic repression, characters biting back their emotions in a very British way. That lends his work poignant power, but in truth, he had no alternative. Gay sex was still illegal (as was underlined by the arrest of John Gielgud in 1953) and plays were censored by the Lord Chamberlain. Rattigan imagined the typical West End theatregoer as a ‘nice, respectablemiddle-class, middle-aged, maiden lady’, who had little knowledge about theatre but ‘knows what she likes’. He named her Aunt Edna. Successors to Rattigan slowly became bolder. Joe Orton’s dark farces wrapped up sexuality in surrealismand a blizzard of words. La Cage aux Folles, a 1973 French play about a St Tropez drag nightclub, became a hit musical in the 80s. Its influence is still discernible in shows such as Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Martin Sherman’s Bent (1979) was a bleaker moment – a searing tale about Nazi Germany’s persecution of gaymen. IanMcKellen and the late TomBell starred in the London premiere. RonaldHarwood’s The Dresser (1980) was su usedwith theatrical a ection. Then came the Aids-related shows, among them Rent, Angels in America and The Inheritance – a Young Vic hit in 2018. TheMinistry of LesbianA airs may not be a classic of thatmagnitude, but it charms. As for Aunt Edna, perhaps she was never quite so square as Rattigan imagined. John Gielgud thought he was finished in 1953 after the scandal of his arrest. He was working in Liverpool at the time with Sybil Thorndike. She grabbed his hand andmarched on stage, hissing, “Come on, John, darling, they won’t boome.” The audience greeted Gielgud with a prolonged, standing ovation. They showed exactly what they thought of anti-gay prejudice. FEEL GOOD WITH FASHION Make it a bold, bright summer with the second Kemi Telford collection at John Lewis. One of the store’s fastest-selling womenswear brands last year, the range was created by Yvonne Modupe Telford, with a mission to design clothes that make women feel great. The collection pays tribute to her Nigerian heritage, with vibrantly coloured African wax cotton prints, voluminous skirts, shirred sundresses and fresh, fun, ‘Always Fabulous’ slogan T-shirts. From £40 for a T-shirt and £160 for a dress. johnlewis.com HEAD TO A FOOD FESTIVAL A little cheese here, a cupcake there, a square of posh chocolate, perhaps a slice or two of ham with artisan crackers and a few olives… and that’s before you’ve even thought about lunch. If you’re in Liverpool this weekend, head for Taste Liverpool: Drink Bordeaux from 2-5 June, the city’s new festival held in collaboration with the Bordeaux Wine Council. As well as a producers’ market, there are wine tastings, special menus at restaurants and cafés, and cooking demos with chefs including Simon Rimmer, GBBO’s Lizzie Acker and Snackmasters’ Sarah Mountain (visitliverpool.com). Or in west London, catch the Foodies Festival at Syon Park, with former MasterChef champions Dhruv Baker and Shelina Permalloo, plus 2022 winner Eddie Scott and änalist Pookie Tredell (3-5 June, foodiesfestival.com). ‘Rattigan was a master of dramatic repression… That lends his work poignant power, but in truth, he had little alternative’