Burnt Lavender

Burnt Lavender is a queer cabaret, devised and presented by students from the University of Worcester's Masters in Touring Theatre degree. The show asks the question: what is the point of creating social structures which force individuals to live out lives that are not their own. Who exactly does this serve? It is performed by a large group including Olga Hlouskova, Aadil Din, Lin Perne, Robin Cain, Freya Webb, Mathew Cartwright, Jamie Shaw, Charlotte Jeffreys-Hall, Corinne Leigh-Hewitson, Leo Pawlin, Ryan Brunt, and Grace Livermore. The design is simple but effective, consisting of chairs and curtained door frames.

Moving and profound, a quality, worthwhile production

Together, the company creates a transgressive night club – a conglomeration of historical queer establishments that, in one way or another, have subverted the prevailing heteronormative culture of the time. This ranges from the famous El Dorado in Weimar Berlin, to London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Unusually, the manager of the club is a totalitarian dictator. He barks orders through his megaphone - trying to dictate the thoughts, feelings, behaviour, sexual identity and gender identity of the club’s performers. This is a device that doesn’t quite work (it feels as if such a character would either steer clear of this kind of career altogether, or otherwise, just shut the whole club down.)

However, this is theatre, and we are prepared to live with such a peculiarity because it enables us to witness some wonderful moments of individual defiance and group protest, through the prism of the cabaret.

And these performers are super-defiant. There are some pivotal moments when we see them tested - a police raid on the Vauxhall Tavern is satirised using a Keystone Cop dance routine; the absurdity of male-female dance shows is revealed when heteronormative instructions are bellowed down the megaphone by the manager. Some of these routines are spectacular.

There some areas that need further attention. With no technical vocal projection support, some members of the cast are struggling to make themselves heard. This is an easy thing to fix. When your voice teacher tells you to practise voice for an hour every day, do it. It will pay off! Also, there are some games that are used in the rehearsal room that don’t transfer well to the stage, but one senses that this can also be fixed, once identified.

The students should be proud of their work, which is, at times, moving and profound, a quality, worthwhile production that should be further developed.

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Reviews by Mel Evans

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★★★
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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Welcome to the Lavender Club, a clandestine cabaret pulsing with physical theatre, lip-synced routines and gut-wrenching confessions. Burnt Lavender is inspired by the clubs and bars of the Pride movement, from Berlin’s notorious Eldorado to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Dazzlingly dark and unapologetically rebellious, Burnt Lavender is a kaleidoscopic exploration of conversion therapy, love and power. Megaphones are ripped from the hands of authority to amplify LGBTQ+ history through laughter, tears, and a stage full of queers. The revolution starts here – and you’ve got a front-row seat. Presented by the University of Worcester’s Masters in Touring Theatre.

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