Saturday, 16 March 2013

Midwest trans, gay superheroes, a Messiah, brown skirts, Elsie and tomato masturbation

[photo courtesy of Krys at KrysPhotos]

Yet again, Paul Burston proved that Polari is more than merely "London's peerless gay literary salon", it is in fact one of the best evening's entertainment you can have with your clothes on! John-John, Craig, little Tony, Ange, "Polari virgin" Vicky, our Paul and I (and an audience that not only included regulars such as Val (VG) Lee but also the estimable Marcus Reeves and gay royalty Bette Bourne) were treated to a spectacular selection of divertissements last night.

Opening with a visual tribute to the cover art of Bowie's new album The Next Day, Paul introduced a newcomer to such events, the diminutive Lucy Danser.

Miss Danser apparently studied Acting and Playwriting at the University of Indiana in Bloomington - a MidWest city not famous for its multicultural tolerance - where, to her surprise, she encountered a most unusual restaurateur, Rachael. This remarkable trans individual - formerly known as Eric - and her valiant struggle to maintain "Rachael's Café" as an oasis where everyone is accepted with no exceptions, standing firm against archetypal Redneck attitudes, inspired Lucy to write a play based upon her life. Miss Danser read us a passage from this fascinating work, which illustrated the difficulties of running this unique venue perfectly. Rachael's Café has been staged at fringe festivals in Edinburgh, Dublin, London and Brighton, and I hope it gets the support it deserves for a proper theatrical run...

Our second reader, Will Davis is an award winning writer and trapeze artist (a most unusual combination, admittedly). As on the last occasion we saw him at Polari, it was the former skill with which he entertained us - with a rather fab and hilarious short story Super Closet, about the bothersome experiences of a world-famous superhero struggling with potentially the only foe that might defeat him - his own homosexuality, and society's homophobia. A brilliant concept, excellently delivered. We were enraptured.

However, our next performer took us on a completely different and unexpected course, as Paul introduced "boylesque" performer Mr Mistress as "The Gay Messiah"! Mere words cannot describe this incredible piece, so here he/she is in person:

Still reeling from that performance, it was almost time for the break when the stage was invaded by a most unusual protestor - "Barbara Brownskirt from Penge"! Resplendent in cagoule and sensible shoes, she "treated" us to some of her - ahem! - poetry, before being unceremoniously chucked out (to go and "invade the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival", apparently)...

It was, of course, a brilliant and hilarious piss-take by none other than our next reader and Polari favourite, the wonderful Miss Karen McLeod. After the break, the lady herself took centre stage (looking a lot better than her "Barbara Brownskirt" incarnation). She treated us to two of her beautifully-written short stories - both of which feature on her magnificent blog The View From The Thirteenth Floor - the rather funny Sorry, Simon Amstell and rather more touching My Name is Elsie, about escorting her Mum to see her Aunty in a nursing home:
Mum gets out a box of Maltesers. I pull off the cellophane as Mum says her fingers aren't working today.

I notice Elsie looks like her sister, my mum's mother, my grandmother. It's the look of being old, crumpled and tired. Her legs have lost all shape of ankle. I go into the room to fetch her cardigan and skim the row of old folks in the main room. This Morning is on TV and I start praying that I don't end up sat in a room filled with sleeping strangers, watching Eamon Holmes' equivalent. But then again they probably prayed not to be old once too. I stop myself from welling up. I think how all the people look strangely alike.
Karen writes so beautifully. We were stunned...

Before we had chance to get too maudlin - difficult anyway, given Miss McLeod's bubbly personality - it was time for our headliner, cartoonist Steven Appleby!

We loved his previous visit here back in December 2011, and this time he began with a bit of a recap of his story, his life, and the wild imaginings that permeate his drawings - including favourite characters "Dragman" and "Loomus". However, there was an even greater treat in store, as he plucked from a pot (that Val Lee had been around collecting from the audience earlier) a selection of people's "hidden secrets".

From two of these - "I was tempted to push someone off the platform on the Tube" and "I was supposed to plant my tomato seeds, but spent the morning masturbating instead" (!) - he proceeded to create pieces of his wonderful artwork before our eyes!

It was a joy to behold, and a fitting culmination to a brilliant night...

We love Polari!

Award-winning author Paul Bailey headlines the next outing for Polari at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday 26th April 2013. I can't wait...


  1. Another fantabulosa blog darling, which I look forward to as much as the Polari event itself. Brilliantly summarised as usual and another fantastic evening. See you soon! xxx

    1. Thanks darling - lovely to see you, as always, and look forward to the next one. See you there if not before! Jx

  2. Brilliant write-up as always. I was very sorry to miss this one.

    1. Thanks! You did indeed miss a real treat... Jx

  3. It was a brilliant night,
    I'm not sure if it was the fact it was a Friday so the normal getting up early tomorrow pressure was removed, but it was just one of those nights where everything seemed to click for me.

    The audience and performers complimented each other perfectly and it was yet another monthly highlight for me, plus the added bonus of no real queue at the bar.

    As near to my idea of a perfect Friday night as you can get, although I'm sure Paul and co will pull out all of the stops again for next month's event.


    1. It is difficult to know whether Polari on a Friday will continue to be such a success, as on this day of the week (of all days) there are so many competing priorities for so many people. However, I do agree, this was a fab evening! Jx


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