In the run up to this year’s, later than usual, Pride in Brighton and Hove day, the Theatre Royal is hosting what promises to be a most extraordinary and fascinating show. The production will feature seven of the country’s top drag artistes, the absolute “cream of the scene”, performing, for the first half of the show, in their male personas.
Mart Crowley’s ground-breaking piece, The Boys in the Band, is the play that they will perform and then they will round off the evening with some late-night, outrageous cabaret as, after the interval, the seven performers return in drag for The Girls in the Band, a brand new production, directed by Dave Lynn.
Producer Kevin Wood is very enthusiastic about the project which, according to him, may not just be a one-off show for Brighton. “Most of the boys have residencies in venues all over the scene so taking the show on a prolonged tour would not be practical, but I think what we will do is, every six weeks or so, the show will pop up in another city. So the rest of the country should get to see it, but we think that it is excellent timing that such a marvellous idea should appear in Brighton in the lead up to Pride”
“Some productions take a lot of work to put together but this one just took seven phone calls, and then the eighth one to Biggins. All I asked them was if they wanted to do it and they all said yes, straight away so, in recognition of everyone’s commitment to the show we are all equal partners in the independent company that is producing it”
As Kevin mentioned, Christopher Biggins will be directing the play and, as he is a friend of the writer, it’s very important to him that it works well. “The Boys in the Band is a play that I have loved since the 60s mainly because it’s a brilliantly funny play – well, to start with anyway. It’s all about a birthday party, in New York’s Upper East Side, for Harold. His boyfriend Michael throws the affair, and invites all their gay friends along.”
“In the second half of the play the knives start to come out and it gets very queeny, in the 60s sense, in that there is a lot of over the top fun and yet there is also this undercurrent of really vile queeny acid. Before long the party turns into a dreadful evening for them all – and there will be some squirming in the audience too I’m sure.”
He said of his cast, “The boys all have so much to learn, a lot to do and a great deal to give over to the audience but it will be very interesting. They are all wonderful performers and fantastic ad-libbers, but this time there is a script to be followed, very closely. What I firmly believe though is, as long as they can get used to playing themselves, it will be absolutely brilliant.”
The second half cabaret piece is set to be an outrageous late-night show with the seven performers in their more usual guises. Director, and drag performer Dave Lynn explained, “What we plan to give in the second half is the best of all our usual acts, but in theatre form. All the acts are absolutely at the top of their game and I have wanted to stage this show, with the best lighting, the best music, the best costumes and the best staging, for a very long time.
“We’ll be doing a couple of numbers together but, basically, it’s a chance to see us all in our finest hour! I’ve always wanted to work with the ones who are at the top, who know their onions, but with this show we’ve also got a new star of the scene called Lady La Rue, who came to my academy a couple of years ago and has had great success since. It will be the very best of our acts with comedy, music, dancers, some audience participation and even a surprise from Maisie Trollette.”
The Boys in the Band, starring Stephen Bacon, Richard Byrne, Stephen Richards, Alan Trainor, Andrew Simeon, Del Bell-Haynes, Jason Sutton, Dave Lynn and Allan Jay will be appearing in a double bill with The Girls in the Band starring Dave Lynn, Lola Lasagne, Rose Garden, Titti La Camp, Lady La Rue, Miss Jason, Sandra and with a special guest appearance by Maisie Trollette, at the Theatre Royal Brighton from 22 – 31 August with all tickets, including an interval drink, at £20.