Interview with Andrew Hodges

26 11 2014

theenigmaClayton Littlewood talks to Andrew Hodges, author of ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’. Andrew’s biography forms the basis for ‘The Imitation Game’. The film is not the first portrayal of Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke the Enigma Code during the Second World War and developed the first computers. In 1986 Andrew Hodges’ biography had led to the play ‘Breaking the Code’, which was later made into a film. Both versions starred Derek Jacobi.

The tragedy of Turing’s life was that he was convicted for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 and two years later he committed suicide.

Andrew, a mathematician himself and LGBT activist, tells us what motivated him to write the book and what experiences he made when doing the research. He and Clayton also discuss the Queen’s posthumous a royal pardon and ‘A Man From the Future’, a piece by the Pet Shop Boys, which is dedicated to Alan Turing and premiered on 23rd July at this year’s Proms. When producing the 45-minute-piece, the Pet Shop Boys also worked with Andrew Hodges and his book. Andrew offers an insight into Turing’s personality and the complicated factors that led to Turing’s death in 1954. He also recalls his time with the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s.

Andrew’s 1983 biography ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’ has just been published in a new edition in the wake of the release of ‘The Imitation Game’.

Click here to listen to the full interview

Listen again: 18th November 2014

22 11 2014
'Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker' at Leicester Square Theatre

‘Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker’ at Leicester Square Theatre

Baylen Leonard sits in for Rosie and chats to Supreme Fabulettes star Sheila Simmonds. Sheila presents her solo show ‘Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker’, which includes original songs. She describes that the show is ‘how it would be if Sheila invited you to her house for Christmas’. In the show she interacts with the audience and has special guests. Hailing from Australia, she remembers her first Christmas in the UK in 1970s and reveals that she moved here four years ago because of its vibrant cabaret scene. ‘Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker’ runs from 1st December to 3rd January at Leicester Square Theatre.

We hear Clayton Littlewood in conversation with Andrew Hodges, author of ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’ and LGBT activist. Andrew’s 1983 biography led to portrayals of Alan Turing’s life on stage and screen: In the 1980s ‘Breaking the Code’ with Derek Jacobi as Alan Turing and most recently ‘The Imitation Game’ with Benedict Cumberbatch. Andrew tells us what prompted him to write Alan Turing’s biography and reveals what kind of man Turing was, who is best known for breaking the Enigma code during the Second World War. He also shares that in the wake of ‘The Imitation Game’, his book ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’ has just been republished in a new edition. (That day’s show only aired an extract of Clayton’s interview with Andrew Hodges, the whole interview will be available on a separate post.)

Singer Alexander Geist is back in town and talks about his new single ‘When You’re Not on Drugs’, which is due out in February. Alexander explains that, despite the perhaps misleading title, the song is about love. He says that his performances are inspired by late 1970s rock theatre and that he very much appreciates David Hoyles‘ work, with whom he has worked before and on whose show ‘Illustration’ at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern he is a guest on 20th November. At the moment Alex is also busy preparing a world tour for 2015.

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For rights reasons the music is not on the podcast, but that’s what you could hear on the show:

1) Sheila Simmonds: ‘Sheila Simmonds’ Christmas in D Major’ from the album “Hashtags & Handbags”

2) Pet Shop Boys: ‘Odd Man Out’ B-side from the single “Thursday”

3) Alexander Geist: ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose’

4) Fascinating Aida: ‘Prisoner of Gender’ from the album “Charm Offensive”

Listen again: 11th November 2014

15 11 2014

logoRosie has LGBT activist Sue Sanders on the phone to offer us details about the pre-launch of the LGBT History Month, which, in 2015, is dedicated to coded lives. Sue presents Anne Lister, Hugh Paddick, Kenneth Williams, Frida Kahlo and Chevalier d’Eon as those who are featured during the next LGBT History Month. She tells us in which way ‘coded’ is defined and that one focus, among others, will be on Polari as a language. The launch takes place on 18th November at The Museum of The Order of St John in Clerkenwell.

Rosie chats to performance poet Anny Knight who specialises in gigs for mostly women’s and lesbian audiences. Anny’s work is described with: Despite her sad and tragic tales of a lost and lonely lesbian looking for love, there is comedy involved. She remembers how she started in the 1990s and performed for the lesbian group Kenric. Anny also recalls other gigs and reads two poems for us: ‘Disco Dyke Enigmas’ and ‘Green Eyes’. With her narrative poems, Anny is part of the Story Sessions on 19th November at the Café of Good Hope in Hither Greene.

Director Chris Goode talks about his projects ‘Longwave’, a comedy without dialogue, and ‘Men in the Cities’, which he presented at Edinburgh this year. Chris reveals that ‘Longwave’ had been produced already in 2006 and that it was quite a challenge to revive it as there was no script or recording of it. It was reconstructed from the memories the team had. He also tells us how ‘Men in the Cities’ came about, which follows different men and takes on serious matters such as suicide. During his research for the project he found out how difficult it is for men to say things, acknowledge or cope with problems. For him it is important to engage the audience and not to shy away from issues that are perhaps uncomfortable for some.

Click here to listen again

For rights reasons the music is not on the podcast, but that’s what you could hear on the show:

1) Annie Keating: ‘Coney Island’ from the album “Make Believing”

2) Caroline Trettine: ‘Statuesque’ from the album “Gay Demo”

3) Rufus Wainwright: ‘Going to a Town’ from the album “The Best of Rufus Wainwright – Vibrate”

4) Erasure: ‘Reason’ from the album “The Violet Flame”

Listen again: 4th November 2014

10 11 2014
First Episode at the Jermyn Street Theatre

‘First Episode’ at the Jermyn Street Theatre

Baylen Leonard sits in for Rosie. Journalist Alex Goldberg tells us over the phone from Berlin about three exhibitions that are currently at the gay museum Schwules Museum* in Berlin:  ’30 Years of Siegessäule’, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of Berlin’s LGBT magazine, ‘My Comrade – The Diva’, about theatre during World War I, and ‘The Magical World of the Moomins’.

Alex says, as a tourist in Berlin, he regularly picks up the Siegessäule for their listings section. The magazine is also accessible to English speakers as their website offers articles in English. Alex learned that the name means victory column and derives from the monument of the same name, which is in the Tiergarten park, a well-known cruising area. The exhibition shows old editions that invite to read, and offers tours on Saturdays at 5pm. ’30 Years of Siegessäule’ runs until 23rd November.

‘My Comrade – The Diva’ focuses on female impersonators in war theatre at the front and in prison camps as female roles had to be portrayed by men. The men who were to play female characters were often picked for their slender features. Although not all men enjoyed doing it, some did very much and rose to a certain stardom with their female persona. Letters also reveal the tender feelings some men had for these stars. The exhibition also highlights the importance of theatre as a means of escaping of the horrors of the war. Besides showing photographs, films, make up and costumes of the past it also shows video clips of war theatre in the present day. A remarkable feature of the exhibition is that it not only presents war theatre in Germany, but also in England, France and Russia. ‘My Comrade – The Diva’ finishes on 30th November.

‘The Magical World of the Moomins’ is aimed at children and offers wooden Moomin characters to play with, books to read and Moomin characters to be coloured in. The grown-ups learn, for example, that the creator of the Moomins, Tove Jansson has been relatively open about her relationship and in the summer she lived with her partner Tuulikki Pietilä on the island of Klovharu. It also gives an insight into what makes the characters of the Moomin world so special: They show a lot of tolerance towards those who are different. The exhibition ends on 10th November.

Writer Clayton Littlewood reviews the first revival of Terence Rattigan’s play ‘First Episode’. Set in 1933, it revolves around an Oxford undergraduate who falls in love with a mature actress. Clayton enjoyed the performance but considers it to be a ‘historical’ piece as nowadays it seems hard to see why it would have caused such outcry, for example for showing students gambling and men and women talking about casual sex. Clayton shares some background information: Terence Rattigan wrote the play in 1933, when he was 22 years old and an undergraduate himself. He wrote it with fellow student Philip Heimann, an unrequited love. Clayton also points out that although the writing in 1933 obviously had to be very subtle regarding homosexual hints, director Tom Littler could have updated the performance for a contemporary audience to reveal these undertones. ‘First Episode’ runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 22nd November.

Actors Denholm Spurr and Pearce Sampson talk about Nick Myles’ new play ‘Tom and Jerry – A Love Story’, in which they perform. It shows a relationship told in four ‘chaotic’ chapters. Denholm explains that the title ‘Tom and Jerry’ links in so far to the famous cat and mouse cartoon as this relationship is very much based on ‘playfighting’, which – in his experience – is very characteristical of gay relationships. Pearce admits that he was attracted by the writing style. It is not an easy play to perform because it is split into two parts: The lines that the characters say to each other and their thoughts that they reveal to the audience. ‘Tom and Jerry – A Love Story’ is at the Drayton Arms in Kensington on 16th and 17th November.

Click here to listen again

For rights reasons the music is not on the podcast, but that’s what you could hear on the show:

1) Alexander Geist: ‘All Power’

2) Lee Roy Reeams and Wanda Richert: ‘Young and Healthy’ from the 1980 Broadway cast recording of “42nd Street”

3) Scissor Sisters: ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ from the album “Ta-Dah”

4) Secret Affair: ‘Soho Dreams’ from the album “Soho Dreams”

5) Queen: ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ from the album “The Game”



Listen again: 28th October 2014

2 11 2014

imgresAuthor James Dawson chats about his book called ‘This Book is Gay’, a guide to sex and relationships for young LGBT people. James was a sex education teacher in Brighton for eight years and explains how ‘This Book is Gay’ came about. He says, it’s about ‘everything I wished I had known when I was 15′ and to fill a gap. The book has three sections: 1. Identity, 2. Homophobia and 3. Sex and Relationships. He has also included a chapter about coming out with scripts for which he received positive feedback. James also refers to his previous fiction books and the next two novels that are due next year. James appears as part of The Write Idea Festival in East London on 15th November.

We hear Brazilian director Daniel Ribero talking about his coming-of-age film ‘The Way He Looks’. It is about a blind teenager in Sao Paolo who discovers his sexuality. Daniel tells us where the idea for the film came from and that it developed out of a short film, which he made previously to secure some funding for the film. He also gives an insight into the casting, which was not easy because of the age that needed portraying. ‘The Way He Looks’ won the Teddy Award at this year’s film festival Berlinale and is in cinemas now.

Rosie talks to Dean Atta, whose book ‘I Am Nobody’s Nigger’ has been shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and explores race, identity and sexuality. Dean shares how he was compelled by the Stephen Lawrence case to write the poem that gave the book its title. He also talks about his recent travels to America and South Africa, where the use of the word ‘Nigger’ was discussed. Besides the title poem, Dean reads the poems ‘The Mixer’ and ‘I Come From’ from ‘I Am Nobody’s Nigger’. The collection is published by Team Angelica, who also produced ‘Black and Gay in the UK’, a book that focuses on black male experience and also features a piece written by Dean.

Click here to listen again

For rights reasons the music is not on the podcast, but that’s what you could hear on the show:

1) Neneh Cherry: ‘Spit Three Times’ from the album “Blank Project”

2) The Irrepressibles: ‘Ship’ from the album “Nude” (Landscape)

3) Erasure: ‘Reason’ from the album “The Violet Flame”

4) Owen Pallett: ‘I’m Not Afraid’ from the album “In Conflict”

Listen again: 21st October 2014

22 10 2014

The Paying GuestsRosie welcomes Catherine Hall, author of ‘The Repercussions’. It tells the story of Jo, a war photographer, who comes to terms with her past when discovering her great-aunt’s diary. Catherine explains that the inspiration for ‘The Repercussions‘ came from an exhibition at the Brighton Pavilion. It showed images of the First World War, when the Pavilion was used as a hospital. Catherine’s experience in Rwanda when she was working for peace building organisations also fed into the book. ‘The Repercussions’ is published by Alma Books.

Writer Sarah Waters offers us an insight into her latest novel ‘The Paying Guests’. Set in 1920s London, it portrays the impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, who are obliged to take in lodgers. Sarah talks about the research process for ‘The Paying Guests‘, which included reading books about the period and looking at newspapers and maps of the time. She also shares that it was a very ‘hard’, but ‘satisfying’ book to write. Rosie and Sarah also briefly discuss Sarah’s PhD thesis ‘Wolfskins and Togas: lesbian and gay historical fictions, 1870 to the present’. ‘The Paying Guests’ is published by Virago.

This year’s Polari First Book Prize winner Diriye Osman presents his collection of stories called ‘Fairytales for Lost Children’. The book features young, gay and lesbian Somalis who face the complexities of family, identity and the immigrant experience on their way to personal freedom. Diriye reveals that ‘Fairytales for Lost Children‘ was written at a time when he came to terms with his sexuality and embraced it. He recalls falling in love in Peckham, where he has lived for many years. He also describes his affection for the district and particularly its library. The author reads a poignant extract from the book that sums up what the book is about and has been cited by many readers. It starts with “Home is…”. ‘Fairytales for Lost Children’ is published by Team Angelica.

Click here to listen again


For rights reasons the music is not on the podcast, but that’s what you could hear on the show:

1) Erasure: ‘Reason’ from the album “The Violet Flame”

2) Neneh Cherry: ‘Spit Three Times’ from the album “Blank Project”

3) Rae Spoon: ‘Danger Danger Danger’ from the album “Love Is a Hunter”

4) Wallis Bird: ‘I Can Be Your Man’ from the album “Architecture”


‘Outings’ – Review

18 10 2014


‘Outings’ was devised by Matthew Baldwin and Thomas Hescott and directed by David Grindley.

Theatre reporter Denholm Spurr saw ‘Outings’ at St James Theatre on 16th October, 2014 and shares his thoughts with us:

Outings, which transferred for two days to London’s St James Theatre after a successful run in Edinburgh, stages the real-life coming out stories of the LGBT community. Featuring four stand-up comics and a fifth special guest comedy star, scripts in hand and sat on stools along the shallow studio stage, the format is much like a comedy sketch-show like ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway’?

We open with possibly the biggest, bravest (and to the gay community very welcome) verbatim outing, a recording of Tom Daley’s YouTube video released last year. We are immediately thrust into the present where the next major challenge is moving to a time when coming out is no longer a thing; boy, girl, whatever the conversation becomes: “Mum, I think I’m in love.”…. “that’s nice, Dear”.

What ‘Outings’ does successfully is take us through the history of LGBT acceptance, from the Wolfenden report right through to Rainbow laces for footballers. The comics recount the coming out tales with delicacy and honesty, particularly Zoe Lyons who’s story by a lonely wife gathering dust in her husbands “cupboard” was perhaps the most touching moment in the play.

It’s a shame this play follows in the footsteps of other plays that present issues of the gay community and also lacks a great deal of the B in LGBT; perhaps because coming out as Bisexual is still not a socially recognised or accepted thing but that very struggle was unfortunately unexplored. Otherwise Outings presents a very well balanced cross section of individuals and demographics.

I also question the casting of stand-up comics rather than actors, which to me betrayed a bums-on-seats commercialism; borne out of the struggle for audience numbers in Edinburgh perhaps. The performers made excellent work of the lighter moments, especially a hilarious re-enactment of an gay man disappointed by his mother’s unsurprised reaction to his big announcement,  but on the whole this was not a funny script and casting “actors” may have given the serious tones more variety.

Needless to say this is an thoroughly entertaining evening; a sharing of an important collection of stories from a minority group which has, in this country at least, come a long way along the road to acceptance in the last 50 years.

More about Denholm @DenholmSpurr.


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