Summerhall (Venue 26), Edinburgh: Fri 3 – Sun 26 Aug 2018
Guest reviewer: Sarah Moyes
An important piece of LGBT history is explored in Eighties gay romantic comedy, Love Song to Lavender Menace, which returns to Edinburgh this Fringe.
Following a sell-out run at the Royal Lyceum Theatre last year, James Ley’s play is back to educate and celebrate an important part of Edinburgh’s past with a whole new audience.
The story pays tribute to Bob Orr and Sigrid Neilson, the founders of Lavender Menace, Scotland’s firt lesbian, gay and feminist bookshop that opened in 1982 on Edinburgh’s Forth Street.
It follows shop assistants Lewis and Glen as they pack up the bookshop before its move to new premises – and take a trip down memory lane to where the shop began, in the backroom of the infamous Fire Island nightclub on Princes Street which ironically is now the home of Waterstones.
There’s real chemistry between Pierce Reid who plays Lewis and Matthew McVarish as Glen. Both give witty and poignant performances as they look back over the years since they first met. They also take on different characters throughout the show from a bank manager to a policeman, each one helping to paint a more colourful homage to both the shop and the community it served especially for those who didn’t live through these years.
Of course, the show couldn’t talk of the 80s gay club scene without some dance anthems from the likes of The Communards, all played from a large cassette player that takes certain stage. None of the songs disappoint, but the highlight comes when Glen comes back on stage in shorts and a denim waistcoat dancing and thrusting around to It’s Raining Men.
Writer James Ley has really captured a special moment in the city’s history which is brought to life on stage by Director Ros Philips. This was a really significant time for the LGBT community, when attitudes to being gay were changing radically, something that both Ley and Philips portray brilliantly throughout the show.
Pierce Reid and Matthew McVarish in Love Song to Lavender Menace. Photo credit – Aly Wight.
While the ending of the play may be a little predictable, it doesn’t stop you rooting for the characters to throw caution to the wind and finally admit they have genuine feelings for each other. And when they do finally give in and collapse behind an empty bookcase kissing passionately, there’s a collective burst of happiness across the room for these two fictional characters who clearly adore each other.
Love Song to Lavender Menace really is something special. A beautiful, heart-warming and funny show that’s a real gem of the Fringe this year.
Running Time: One hour 15 minutes
Tech Cube Zero, Summerhall (Venue 26), 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Daily (not Mondays): 12.55pm.
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/love-song-to-lavender-menace
Twitter – @lovesongplay