Thursday, 19 May 2011

There's nothing like a lad

"You can frolic with a sailor,
Fantasise over a gaoler,
Imagine yourself between the thighs of a big Norwegian whaler.
But there's nothing like a lad,
A youth who'll come and go,
There's nothing like a lad
Lettered GPO!"

John-John and I went to the tiny "Over the Stag" Theatre last night (Wednesday) - literally, upstairs in The Stag gay pub in Victoria - to see the much-anticipated musical about a great Victorian sex scandal, Cleveland Street. A little gem of a production it was too!

With its Music Hall/Gilbert & Sullivan-style musical numbers, the tale is all about the procurement of post boys to satisfy the lusts of a succession of "respectable gentlemen" of the time.

Among of the clients who regularly visited the male brothel at 19 Cleveland Street were Lord Arthur Somerset (son of the Duke of Beaufort and equerry to the Prince of Wales), the Earl of Euston (William FitzRoy, heir to the Duchy of Grafton), and a Colonel Jervoise from Winchester - otherwise known as "Mr Black", "Mr Green" and "Mr Brown". Another alleged visitor was Queen Victoria's grandson, Prince Albert Edward Victor (known more popularly as Prince Eddy).

As the story unfolds it reveals the true exent of Victorian hypocrisy, and how the establishment always looks after its own. Despite a high-level police raid none of the clients of the brothel were ever charged, even though homosexuality was illegal at the time. At the subsequent trial, two of the boys Henry Newlove and George Veck were found guilty of procurement but received light sentences of less than a year. Lord Arthur Somerset escaped to Vienna and resigned from the Guards and the royal household. He died in France in 1926. Prince Eddy was sent off to India on a lengthy tour of duty.

During a second trial, Lord Euston claimed in the box that he had attended the house in the belief that he was going to watch heterosexual poses plastiques, or the Victorian version of a strip show. Ironically, the only person sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence was the proprietor of a local London newspaper who had dared to print the truth but was sued for libel by the Earl. In effect, the scandal was "brushed under the carpet" by high society.

The ribald songs, including There Ought To Be A Law Against It, Nothing Like A Lad, Rum, Buggery And The Lash and Climbing The Ladder, Passing The Buck, take the tale from the beginnings of the brothel and the initial procurement of fresh boys and new clients (mainly by the story's narrator, the real-life gay rogue John Saul) through to the police raid, the escape of the brothel's "Madam" Charles Hammond to France, and the consequences afterwards.

Cleveland Street the Musical avoids too much in the way of tawdriness and serious social commentary, rather it celebrates the enjoyment that the naughtiness brought to all concerned, until its collapse under the weight of prudish hypocritical "morality" of society at the time.

Yes, you do get to see some cock, and the players are rather cute - which also makes for an enjoyable evening's entertainment - but the whole in this case is more than just a sum of its parts. It is a bloody good night out - but it's only booking to the end of May so you'd better be quick!

Cleveland Street - The Musical

1 comment:

  1. It was a fantastic show. I'd definitely go to see it again. J-Jx


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