Gay theatre festival attracts global audience

THE contribution of gay people to theatre will take centre stage in Dublin this week.

More than 40 Irish and international productions will be performed in 10 city centre venues when the fifth International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival opens today.

Organisers said the event is the only international festival of its type in the world and has attracted companies from every continent.

Drama, comedy, musical theatre, late night cabaret, youth theatre and opera will be among the 216 performances staged over the next two weeks.

Artistic director Brian Merriman said all works are connected by having a gay theme, character or relevance. But he stressed this year’s festival has been designed to appeal to people regardless of sexuality.

“People can expect to see some very innovative theatre which is not just about people coming out, it’s going way beyond that,” he said.

“It’s about gay people’s lives and their observations, their pasts and their hopes in the future.

“The plays go straight through from cutting edge drama right to cabaret and even opera.”

Set up to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Oscar Wilde, the festival has grown rapidly over the intervening years.

Since its launch, 25,000 people have attended stage shows involving 1,500 performers, stage crew and volunteers.

Mr Merriman said 34 out of 35 plays at the festival will have their Irish, European or world premiere.

He continued: “The performers have been piling in to Dublin over the weekend, with companies coming from Adelaide in Australia, Cape Town in South Africa, and Vancouver in Canada.

“There are two shows in each venue, so there is great excitement and with companies setting up today.”

Organisers said the festival is designed to give a platform to the talents of gay people which historically were concealed by the process of criminalisation.

It also creates opportunities for visibility and affirmation for existing and emerging gay artists and theatrical works.

Highlights of the programme include Corpus Christi, a modern day take on the story of Jesus which depicts Jesus and his disciples as gay.

The hugely controversial play by multiple Tony and Emmy Award winner, Terrence McNally, caused outrage among Australian religious leaders earlier this year when it was staged as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

US production, The Eyes of Babylon, depicts one soldier’s struggle to reconcile his part in the Iraq war, while Nijinsky’s Last Dance tells the story of the tragic Russian ballet dancer.

Meanwhile, The Girly Side of Butch, all the way from Adelaide, brings a real life “Priscilla” story to Dublin in its candid insight into a life of feathers, sequins and drag.

* www.gaytheatre.ie


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