As someone heavily involved in LGBTQ campaigning, I’m still learning about the history of our struggle in Edinburgh, so a play documenting the rise and fall of groundbreaking bookshop, Lavender Menace, was essential viewing.
Love Song to Lavender Menace is an especially timely play, too, in a year celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality â€“ an area where Scotland sadly lagged behind the rest of the UK.
Lewis and Glen are packing up the last of Lavender Menace, while paying homage to Sigrid and Bob, the original owners. Between them, they paint a vivid, glittery history of the queer 80s, shot through with secrecy, oppression, and unspoken feelings.
The staging was simple yet effective, with light-up bookshelves that gradually went out as the stock was packed away, a spotlit monologue area, and a soundtrack of battered old tapes of Bronski Beat and Village People. The bookshop’s decline is played out against a backdrop of Thatcherism, as larger stores eye up the pair’s beloved nightclub Fire Island for redevelopment. Indeed, the play revels in contrasts like this, playing off capitalism and socialism, snobbery and the plebeian, police and citizen, butch and femme.
Every scene sparkled with nippy, witty dialogue, and there were plenty of zingy one liners – a personal favourite was ‘who do you think you are, Gay Guevara?’. I particularly enjoyed the metatextuality of a play-within-a-play, telling the story of both the bookshop’s founders and the young, enthusiastic staff carrying on their legacy. Each performance has a cameo from a local writer, and Daniel Gray carried out his ‘time traveller’ role with aplomb.
There was a real sense of pride in the important work the shop did in the LGBTQ community, and writer James Ley treats the subject matter with great affection and just the right amount of cheeky asides.
I left with an extensive reading list, a tear in my eye and a sense of optimism for the independent bookshops flourishing in the city today.
Directed by Ros Philips, and starringÂ Pierce Reid & Matthew McVarish
Lyceum Rehearsal Studio 12 â€“ 21 October 2017. Then on tour – various venues throughout Scotland.
Photo Credit: Aly Wright.Â