Gabrielle Silvestre’s new play – Des Fleurs – will show at the Space Theatre from 25-29 October
BY GABRIELLE SILVESTRE, IMAGE VIA THE SPACE THEATRE
A few weeks ago I was asked if queer theatre was important. I’m a queer theatre maker, so of course I believe the answer is yes. But why exactly is it important?
To me, on top of being something really fun and a way to pay my bills, theatre is a recording tool: it preserves the way we thought and felt at one moment in time. That’s where I think the heart of queer theatre is.
For thousands of years, queer history has been swept under the rug. It was either downplayed or not recorded at all. Queer figures were ignored or wrapped in shame and obvious same-sex couples just became “very good friends.” It’s to the point that today, queer history often means uncovering all those hidden figures and claiming them back as part of our community so they can be celebrated.
Thing is, history in general, and stories in particular, are important. They create a sense of community; they give us role models, inform us on who are and tell us that we belong. More importantly perhaps, stories can change the way people think.
In the podcast Out with Suzi Ruffell (which I really recommend by the way), Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black described how he once invited his mother over for Christmas. Dustin had a Mormon upbringing on a Texas military base and his mother was not too happy with him coming out and living with gay friends in Los Angeles, but she came anyway. Dustin didn’t tell any of his friends about his mother’s opinions, so they just assumed that she was like a queer Mother Theresa. And they talked to her all night long. They told her their stories and (quite literally) all the ins and out of being young and queer in LA in the 90s. Dustin’s mother simply nodded away out of politeness.
When his friends were gone, his mother beckoned him to sit next to her. And she simply said “I met your friends. You know this boy you said you liked… I told him that the next time he takes you out he ought to treat you a little better and maybe he ought to pay.”
Dustin was dumbfounded. In the space of one evening, his friends had melted away all the prejudices of his mother. Dustin goes on to say, this is when he first understood the power of stories.
Stories will change people much more easily than logic, number or argument ever will, and this is where the power of theatre lies.
Theatre is a conversation; a direct conversation between the creative team and the audience and it is impossible not to listen. Theatre cannot be paused. It cannot be escaped. Putting up emotional barriers is really hard and if you’re British you’ll always be too polite to leave the room. So if you want to change someone’s mind, what better way than cornering them in a dark room and tell them a story?
That’s why I think queer theatre is important. It’s honestly the best way I know to reach people and to celebrate who we are. It’s a place for us to come together: believe me, going to a queer play and being sat in a row full of queer people is one of the best feelings. Theatre is also fairly straightforward to make: you just need a body in a space with somebody else watching, so everyone can make it. Theatre is for everyone, and it especially is for us.
So go to the theatre. Watch a queer play or write your own, or simply tell a story to your children. Just don’t let anyone forget how incredible we all are.
Gabrielle’s new play Des Fleurs is showing at the Space Theatre (E14 3RS) from 25-29 October with a live stream on 27 October. For more information, please visit: https://space.org.uk/event/des-fleurs/.
Use the code QUEER22 for £5 discount on tickets.
DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable.