Outlaws to In-laws, which is dedicated to the struggles and joys of gay men connecting with each other over the last seven decades,gets its world premiere at London’s King’s Head Theatre in a limited season from 29 August to 23 September 2017, with a press night on 31 August.
The production comprises seven short plays by seven leading gay writers – Jonathan Harvey, Jonathan Kemp, Joshua Val Martin, Matt Harris (who conceived the project), Patrick Wilde, Philip Meeks and Topher Campbell – directed by Patrick Wilde.
Outlaws to In-laws is a fictional exploration of gay men in the throes of love – young love, risky love, secret love… and good old-fashioned romance. From the darkest days of criminality to the legalising of gay marriage, it features seven short plays by leading gay writers that represent each of the decades from the 1950s to the present day.
Casting to be announced.
Happy and Glorious by Philip Meeks is set in the 1950s. On the day of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, South London lad Dennis follows a young man away from the celebrating crowds to an apartment overlooking Westminster Abbey. He soon discovers a world far away from his own and within a matter of hours he falls in and out of love. As the new monarch is crowned, Dennis’ life will never be the same again.
Mister Tuesday by Jonathan Harvey is set in the 1960s. In their own little love nest, Peter loves Jimmy and Jimmy loves Peter – but only every Tuesday. Peter wants more from Jimmy but Jimmy has a sensitive job, a wife, and baby on the way. Frustrated, Peter makes Jimmy a bleak offer to make sure he won’t flee the nest.
Reward by Jonathan Kemp is set in the 1970s. It’s the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Donald, a sweet 16 American meets Spike, a skinhead, at a bus stop in a dodgy part of town. The attraction is instant. Except Spike belongs to the National Front and Donald is black. Will their love take them to a place of reward or punishment?
1984 by Patrick Wilde is set in the 1980s. The Conservative Party Conference is about to start when Tommy and Allan find themselves under Brighton Pier, but the time for hiding in the shadows should be over. Allan, Margaret Thatcher’s aide, is preparing to help legislate against gay people. Suddenly the political and the personal become a matter of life and death.
Princess Die by Matt Harris is set in the 90s. Shane has had yet another disastrous night out with his boyfriend, and worse his fledgling drag career is struggling to get off the ground. All seems lost until he finds a gorgeous, naked stranger in the flat. Can Tyler help Shane find the personal reserves to carry on before things get any worse?
Brothas by Topher Campbell is set in the noughties. It centres on Dwayne, a muscular, attractive Jamaican immigrant and his overweight, plain university friend, Remi. They are chilling, and chatting… and chatting to guys online but after Dwayne finds a hot date for the night – with benefits he discovers Remi is using a fake profile…
The Last Gay Play by Joshua Val Martin is set in the present day. Anyone can get cold feet before getting married but hiding in the chapel belfry isn’t the answer. Will the Father get the groom to the altar or does he care more about the church roof than he does about the couple’s happiness?
The writers on their plays
Explaining the overall aim of the production, Matt Harris said:
“I originally conceived Outlaws to In-Laws after I discovered I was closely related to Roy Jenkins. As Home Secretary in 1967, he sought to build ‘a civilised society’. Amongst a raft of other measures that year he abolished theatre censorship and decriminalised homosexuality for gay men. These two acts alone have had a direct effect on my life. Outlaws to In-Laws is a reminder to ourselves and others of the need to celebrate the gains our heroes have made possible, and the work still yet to do to achieve true equality for everyone who is different in the UK.”
Jonathan Harvey said: “I have always been interested in gay history in the UK as gay men historically didn’t have children (or as many children) as their straight counterparts and so our stories were not handed down to the next generations – and then of course AIDS came along… I am particularly interested in the 60s – a decade when homosexuality was still illegal and therefore blackmail was rife. I wanted to shine a light on that time when consensual sex between two men could see them being sent to prison.”
Jonathan Kemp said: “Having written about gay men in the 1950s & 90s in my novel London Triptych, I knew I didn’t want to revisit these two decades, so I chose the 1970s. From being a child of that troubled decade I knew I wanted to write about racism. Then as I was writing the play, the Black Lives Matter movement formed in the US and in the UK more recently, reports of racism in gay bars surfaced and the interracial love story I was telling in “Reward” became tragically resonant with our present.
Philip Meeks said: “After WW2, fear ruled, anybody who threatened traditional British social values was suddenly seen as the enemy. However, upper class queers had the resources to meet at lavish secret gatherings. I wanted to write about this through the eyes of someone from the opposite end of the social scale. Happy And Glorious is meant as a reminder that whatever your gay background, falling in love or coming of age is an experience everyone can share.”
Patrick Wilde said: “My whole gay life was informed by the fact I came out for the first time in 1980. In those first few years of the decade it was so thrilling and life-affirming to find a community I belonged to. And then, of course, everything changed. I lost so many friends, it galvanised me as an artist and activist. And not only me. I wanted to write a story of how AIDS changed us, not for the worst, but in the end for the triumphant better.”
Topher Campbell said: “Brothas was inspired by a number of things. I grew into my sexuality in the 90’s but I wasn’t into gangster rap and I wasn’t comfortable with the white mainstream idea of gay culture. Being black and gay either meant being invisible or on the margins of society – Unless it was being objectified, ridiculed or stereotyped. So I wondered how the next generation of black gay men would get by at the beginning of the digital age. That’s why it’s set in the 2000’s where identity, race, sexuality and desire became something we started to work out online.”
Joshua Val Martin said: “How does one present a decade that history has yet to mythologise? As my play is to be performed at the very end, how can my play give the audience the celebration they deserve – yet not ignore the present plights of gay men in the United Kingdom and around the world? My play The Last Gay Play, tries to speak of the now, using equal marriage as the axis between what has happened in the past, and what we might want of the future.’”
Outlaws to In-Laws is produced by Making Productions in association with the King’s Head Theatre.