In the sixty minutes, fifteen characters appear played by five actors, each of whom has a principal role
Siân Docksey as Carol opens the displays of queerness in probably the only performance that is understated. Caught up in a lesbian relationship and life as a teacher in the time of Section 28 and Thatcherism, she struggles with the demands of veganism while being a closet meat eater. That really is a minor concern when compared to dealing with her relationship and discusssions of sexual identity at school.
Charly Flyte plays her sometime partner PJ whose life has been overtaken by her commitment to Outrage, the organisation self described as "a broad based group of queers committed to radical, non-violent direct action and civil disobedience" that existed from 1990-2011. In her powerful tirades she is an eloquent reminder of the angrier days of fighting for equality and the difficulty of committing to both a cause and a person.
No play about queers would be complete without a drag queen and Richard Watkins gives a towering, glitteringly stilettoed performance as Patricia Primarché. She is the reminder of why so many people leave the likes of Stoke-on-Trent to live a more honest and open life in London. In contrast Declan Cooke, the senior member of the troupe, provides measured performances in clearly differentiated roles. His perspective on not being able to come out in the army being particularly poignant.
Of his several roles Stanton Cambridge stands out for his anguished performance as Larry, who incredulously asks himself if he can possibly be bi given that he’s a real ‘laydeez’ guy and wants to remain one of the lads. It is his portrayal of Sapphire, the Dalston transsexual, however, at the end of this whirlwind production, that slows down the pace and provides depth and insight into a troubled individual and time for pondering on some of the many implication of being queer.
Director Peter Darney, who has triumphed with 5 Guys Chillin’, will probably not enable Queers to go so far, not from any failings on his part but because the play suffers from an overload of issues and a lack of identity. If it is a tragi-comedy, offering an historical overview of queerness, then it covers a lot with humour and pathos, but there is no sense of anything particularly new or cutting in the contents. As a show, it's entertaining, but a multiplicity of issues and characters prevents a more subtle exposition of matters affecting generations of queer people.