We in the L.G.B.T.+ community are often slightly adrift from our own history. The legal and cultural oppression that has existed for almost the entirety of modern history has left many of us disconnected from our past and shared communities. I believe that is why James Ley’s acclaimed play resonated so much with me and left me giddy and delighted as I left Summerhall.
At the end of the performance I left the auditorium with tears in my eyes.
Love Song to Lavender Menace focuses on the first radical gay and lesbian bookstore in Scotland. Following two of its staff, Lewis and Glen, as they attempt to craft a play about its history all the while recounting their own stories and dealing with their conflicted feelings for each other, Ley’s script is quite simply a joy to see realised on stage. He brings a superb sense of camp charm and biting wit that makes every line of dialogue positively sing whilst embedding the story with a true sense of heart and emotional depth. He avoids easy answers and the depressing cliched tropes of the gay fiction genre - there are no tragic deaths or horrible childhood abuses lurking around the corner. Instead, the show is an incredibly intelligent and maginicantly reflexive exploration of the power of gay fiction, interrogating and critiquing the standards of the genre and showing the power that representation has to give voice to hidden experiences and even shape how we as gay people can navigate the world.
All of this is complemented by two magnificent performances from Pierce Reid as the fabulous bookworm Lewis, and Matthew McVarish as the more grounded and loveable Glen. Reid brings a biting sense of wit and camp sensibility to his character that captivated the audience from the first moment he strutted across the stage. Reid meanwhile imbues Glen with a earthy charm and deep sense of vulnerability that perfectly complemented Reid’s flouncing flamboyance.
At the end of the performance I left the auditorium with tears in my eyes. It's rare to find a show that is so kind, that celebrates and understands the deep complexity of the gay experience and gives us a window into a period of history that we, in this age of relative acceptance for our identities, forget existed.