In some 4,000 High Schools across the US, you’ll find a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) group. Established to bring LGBTQ pupils and their heterosexual friends together, the aim is for GSAs to create ‘a warm, welcoming environment’ in which a wide range of issues can be discussed. The GSA which currently meets in the basement of the Phoenix Bar on Broughton Road shares pretty much the same goal; except it’s for adults, and chiefly uses comedy.
Unlike last year’s inaugural GSA, which featured three US performers for the whole run, 2013 sees Veronica Elizabeth (fresh from winning Best Stand Up at the LA Comedy Festival) MC a changing gathering of LGBT stand ups and LGBT-friendly straight performers each evening, meaning that while you may not know who you’re going to get on the night, you can be assured it will be an invaluable sampler of what can be found on the Fringe.
Elizabeth is a chilled and diverting raconteur, who started the hour riffing on how Americans are so conspicuous in the UK, before focusing on the stresses of online dating sites, and what she thinks about puppy love. She then handed on the microphone to Joe Sutherland, the kind of young comic you really want to hate (or at least check their ID to ensure they’re old enough to be in a bar on their own), but can’t help but admire for their charm and humorous self-confidence.
Christian Reilly then brought his guitar to the stage. He turned out to be a real money-saver, by condensing all the songs of Bruce Springsteen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Mumford & Sons into a few minutes. Reilly is clearly a gifted musical comedian who’s not afraid of going to the edge of good taste; his papal rewriting of Dolly Parton’s ‘Nine To Five’, for example, is among his less risqué works.
The final act on this particular night was UK-based Canadian Dana Alexander, who exchanged Toronto for Tottenham and always now recommends people google a place before settling there. The cost of train tickets seemed a particular bug-bear on this occasion, but she was certainly a confident and relaxed performer.
With its changing mix of performers from both sides of the Atlantic, this year’s GSA is much more on top of British cultural references than last year’s all-US team. That said, Elizabeth had an endearing habit of referring to ‘Scottish’ and ‘British’ as if they were distinct nationalities (when, of course, the former is–at least for the time being–a subset of latter). Perhaps she was just trying not to use the word ‘English’ within earshot of an upstairs bar filled, on the night of this review, with large numbers of football supporters disappointed by yet another Scottish defeat.