A sincerely told story, a captivating performance and a wealth of humour make for a well-spent eighty minutes upstairs at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre with David Patterson, who makes his writing and acting debut with
A sincerely told story, a captivating performance and a wealth of humour
There is no shortage of material in the coming-of-age genre and plenty that focuses on young men coming out as gay. Many of those seem to recycle a well-trodden path of events that make them highly predictable. Patterson’s piece inevitably has some of those elements. He eventually announces his homosexuality to his friends, his parents and his gran, as many have before. The joy of The Old Queen’s Head is the way Patterson relates these moments and the amusing conceptual framework within which they are placed.
David lives alone; well almost. The section of his apartment we see has a large rectangular, regal-looking rug, maybe even carpet. There’s a chair he is able to move around to create scenes in different locations, but the fixed points are two pairs of white, chest-high classical pillars surrounded by items of mess from everyday life with a few books placed on the tops. Surmounting one of these is a small white bust of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, anthropomorphised to such an extent that it provides the qualifier to his solitary life.
He and this particular Queen have clearly been together for some time and have a close relationship. She is his conscience and advisor; the one who challenges his preconceived notions of identity and self-worth; his alter-ego and trusted friend with whom he converses in matters ranging from outfits to boyfriends. What else is there in a gay man’s life? It’s a clever idea that lifts the introspection from begin just a vocalised internal dialogue to the level of comedic and sometimes angry exchanges with someone whom we know and whose views and opinions we can imaginatively surmise, even though we have no evidence on which to base such suppositions.
This context enlivens the whole discourse, but the energy is deeply rooted in Patterson himself. He has a presence that makes one feel at ease. His fresh-faced complexion, bright eyes and endearing smile underline his innate confidence, but it is his voice, combined with inherent physicality that carries the day. He hails from Erskine and his rich Scottish accent is well-rounded; his enunciation perfectly clear and his voice mellow yet with a sharp edge; the more clipped, guttural and slurred timbre being reserved for when he has disagreements, is riled, or has perhaps spent too long with Glaswegians; an unlikely occurrence given that he went to St Andrews In all cases it’s a delight to listen to and perfectly suited to the art of storytelling, including the portrayal of the odd Sassenach intruder into his life,
The stories about his first boyfriend, James, and then Fraser, the one he really fell in love with, come with the usual mix of joy and sadness. The family encounters are a familiar mix of ups and downs and his gran is someone really special whom he clearly loves, but it is the humour and facial expressions with which everything is invested that raises the level of this solo show with a succession of laugh-out-loud situations and one-liners delivered with precision.
Patterson says of his show: “It’s a story that I feel is important to tell, and I hope it will make people laugh, cry and think. Ultimately, it’s about the discovery of queer joy and all the love and silliness that brings - even though getting there can be tough.” And there you have it. Look out for this play; it will be an experience to cherish.