Special Interview: Jessica Walker

Jessica Walker photo: Caroline Michael

Jessica Walker
photo: Caroline Michael

Naomi Paxton talks to Jessica Walker about her upcoming concert Forbidden Love at Omnibus in Clapham as part of LGBT History month. The concert includes songs from 1920s Berlin to Cyndi Lauper. She tells us what drew her to the music, what discoveries she has made while researching them and how she came to do a PhD.

Forbidden Love is at Omnibus in Clapham on 8 February 2017.

By the way, there is also a chance to catch Rosie at Omnibus on 11 February, when she is performing her comedy show The Conscious Uncoupling.

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Dancing on the Lines – Review: The Wild Party

c05iq5jwiaapzbaThe sound of a crackling record and a sleazy tune seductively sung by red-head Anna Clarke form the prelude to The Wild Party – that is, Rafaella Marcus’ production of it at The Hope Theatre. The Wild Party itself is a narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, described as ‘the classic Jazz Age tale of sex, sweat and sin’. Written in 1926, it was regarded too risqué until 1928, when it was eventually published in the US, and even then it was banned in some states.

It conjures up an image that is full of clinking glasses, tightly locked bodies rocking to jazzy rhythms and piano keys hit hard. However it’s not the jolly, but the wild party, so there’s also a darker side fuelled by alcohol, jealousy and violence.

Anna Clarke and Joey Akubeze share the rhyming lines, alternating between describing the scene and slipping into one of the many characters: Mainly host and hostess Burrs and Queenie, and their lovers Kate and Black, but also their guests, including writers, singers and dancers. One of them is portrayed by March as: Women adored her. / Less often, a man: / And the more fool he— / She was Lesbian. The quirky way in which Joey Akubeze pronounces ‘lesbian’ cleverly ensures it doesn’t slip under the radar.

Joey Akubeze and Anna Clarke in The Wild Party - photo: Alex Fine Photography

Joey Akubeze and Anna Clarke in The Wild Party – photo: Alex Fine Photography

There’s a great dynamic between the two performers and they have a feast playing with the lines, dancing on them like piano keys. Clarke and Akubeze also nicely render songs like Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, which are interspersed and provide a welcome break from the skilful, but demanding text.

Marcus adds a clever twist to the production by having both characters wear top hat and tails at the beginning of the show, when the scene is set, making clear that the female character is a modern woman. For part two, the party, she sheds her formal wear to reveal a skimpy golden dress that represents the Roaring Twenties. The great surprise is to see Akubeze appear in the same dress, only in silver. His make up and rouged cheeks underline the play with gender, which not only perfectly fits the period but also the production, since both actors pick up characters of both genders.

Anna Clarke in The Wild Party - photo: Alex Fine Photography

Anna Clarke in The Wild Party – photo: Alex Fine Photography

Part of the staging is the questionable use of fruit. Yes, they metaphorically get the idea of sex across, and yes, half-eaten apples, bananas, pears and peaches leave a frightful mess on the floor, which one would expect after a wild party. But could the attraction, the tension between characters, not be more effectively expressed through dance or music?

Despite the actors’ admirable performances and their dynamic, they sadly lack any chemistry. The Wild Party is a deeply atmospheric piece, so for coming evenings one hopes that the performance will also generate some electricity, some buzz that might actually captivate the audience, making them feel a part of it, not just bystanders in the doorway. Until then, at least, the show is a joy to watch.

The Wild Party runs at The Hope Theatre until 28 January 2017.

By Sabine Schereck

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Queer’Say November 2016

Dominic Berry photo: Ian Wallis

Dominic Berry
photo: Ian Wallis

Highlights of the final Queer’Say of 2016, presented by Rosie Wilby and recorded at Free Word Centre on 16 November.

Rosie introduced live spoken word sets from Travis Alabanza, Toby Campion and Dominic Berry.

This event was supported by Arts Council England and presented in partnership with Apples and Snakes.


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Queer’Say September 2016

Paula Varjack Photo: Hannes Früh

Paula Varjack
Photo: Hannes Früh

Highlights of Queer’Say recorded at Rich Mix on 9 September. Rosie was ill so the poets Fergus Evans, Jackie Hagan and Paula Varjack interviewed one another – with occasionally hilarious results. This event was supported by Arts Council England and presented in partnership with Apples and Snakes.

The final Queer’Say of 2016 will be at Free Word Centre, Farringdon on 16 November.

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Special Interview: Jeffrey Weeks

coming-out-pic-2Clayton Littlewood meets gay activist, historian and author Jeffrey Weeks to talk about the new edition of his book Coming Out. It was originally published in 1977 and traces LGBT life in Britain from the late 1800s to the present day.

After the publication of the first edition, which was barely ten years after male homosexuality had been partially decriminalised in England and Wales, Jeffrey was unemployable for a long time as a professional historian. By 2012 his career had gone full circle and he was awarded the OBE for services to social science.

This is the extended version of the interview that was broadcast on Out in South London on 25 October 2016.

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Listen Again: 25 October 2016

51e2ccro1plIn a literary special, Rosie speaks to authors Juliet Jacques and VG Lee about their books, Trans: A Memoir and Mr Oliver’s Object of Desire.

Clayton Littlewood chats to gay activist Jeffrey Weeks about the new edition of his book Coming Out. It was originally published in 1977 and traces LGBT life in Britain from the late 1800s to the present day

For rights reasons the music is not on the podcast, but here’s what we played on the live show:

1) Dead or Alive: You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) from the album Youthquake
2) Wallis Bird: That Leads the Way from the album Home
3) The Hidden Cameras: The Day I Left Home from the album Home on Native Land
4) PWR BTTM: I Wanna Boi

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Listen again: 18 October 2016

poster-hiv-monos-2Stewart Who hosts the show. He is joined by writer Patrick Cash to discuss The HIV Monologues, which can be seen on 22, 27 and 28 October at Miranda London, the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch.

He also chats to Jonathan Paul Hellyer – previously a singer with Bronski Beat, occasional actor and cult drag performer known as the Dame Edna Experience.

Denholm Spurr speaks to director Robert Chevara and writer Alexis Gregory about their production of SAFE, a piece of verbatim theatre that explores homelessness among LGBT youth. It runs at the London Theatre Workshop from 17 – 22 October.

For rights reasons the music is not on the podcast, but here’s what we played on the live show:

1) George Michael: Waiting for that Day from the album Listen Without Prejudice
2) Antony and the Johnsons and Boy George: You Are My Sister from the album I’m a Bird Now
3) The Cliks: Cry Me a River from the album Snakehouse

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