Guest Blog: Richard Watson – The Stories of ‘Queers’
This April, the Huddersfield Thespians present Queers, a series of short monologues written in response to the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act.
In 1967 the Sexual Offences Act legalised homosexual acts between consenting men of 21 or over, in private, in England and Wales. Later laws did the same for Scotland in 1981 and Northern Ireland in 1982. Before that time, a man could go to prison for homosexual behaviour, or be blackmailed over it; Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing are perhaps the most famous examples.
The Act was amended in 1994 to lower the age of homosexual consent to 18, and then it was mostly replaced by a new Sexual Offences Act in 2003. But 1967 remains an important milestone in the history of LGBT rights in the UK.
Our Queers script was originally curated by Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, The League of Gentlemen) and filmed for the BBC, as well as being performed at London’s Old Vic Theatre. The original cast included Ben Whishaw, Rebecca Front, Russell Tovey and Alan Cummings.
These eight monologues explore a century of changing British attitudes to homosexuality. We begin with World War One and a story inspired by Oscar Wilde and the so-called Labouchere Amendment, or Blackmailer’s Clause. We go on to the passing of the Act itself in 1967 (in a story questioning what is lost as well as gained by the change) and finally we finish with the present-day and marriage equality in England, Wales and Scotland.
Along the way, the play touches on the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, the lowering of the age of consent in 1994 and the lives of young gay black men in Blitz-era London. There’s 1957’s Wolfenden Report into Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, which was prompted by high-profile prosecutions of men like Alan Turing, and paved the way for the 1967 Act by recommending that homosexuality no longer be considered a crime or an illness.
The eight monologues performed in Queers are:
The Man on the Platform: It’s 1917 and as Perce returns home from the trenches he recollects a love that dared not speak its name.
The Perfect Gentleman: In 1929 Bobby is a swaggering man about town, but Bobby has a secret. Can it survive?
Safest Spot in Town: In 1941, as the Blitz hits London, Fredrick is grateful he survived in an unlikely place of refuge.
Missing Alice: In 1957 Alice and her husband share a secret, but then the Wolfenden Report is published.
I Miss the War: It’s 1967 and maybe the Sexual Offences Act won’t revolutionise everything as far as Jack is concerned.
More Anger: 1987 and with AIDS hitting the headlines, a new part looks like a game-changer for actor Phil.
A Grand Day Out: It’s 1994 and 17-year-old Andrew comes to London for the first time – with unexpected results.
Something Borrowed: 2016 and Steve is preparing his wedding speech. But now the big day is here, what has been won?
This is a play that shows how far British society and culture has come, and that we all stand on the shoulders of giants – many of them just ordinary men and women.
Queers runs from the 9th -13th April, in the Cellar at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, 7.15pm every night and with a 2pm matinee on Saturday 13th.
Huddersfield Thespians have been performing quality theatre in Huddersfield since 1920, and Queers is the fourth play of our 99th Season. We’ll finish off that season in June with the classic Aldwych farce, Tons of Money.