Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Anti-gay violence takes centre stage at festival

Black Milk will look at the lives of poor Russians

Homophobia and anti-gay violence may not exactly be obvious subjects for an evening of entertainment, but they do provide the backbone for one of the festival’s most thought-provoking events.

Festival director Graeme Farrow said he had tears in his eyes when he first watched To Be Straight With You, by the DV8 Physical Theatre Company, which kicked off last night at the Grand Opera House.

Its muscular, high-energy brand of dance theatre wraps itself around dozens of real-life oral testimonies from gay people across the UK, many of whom have had to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

The show’s director, Lloyd Newson, said: “I felt that if I actually had the words of people who had experienced these issues first-hand, it would be hard for anyone to accuse me of manipulation,” he said.

One of the testimonies refers to the violent attack last year on Stephen Scott, a gay man from Northern Ireland. It includes excerpts from Iris Robinson MP’s conversation on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show, during which she made a number of controversial and widely-reported comments about homosexuality.

Earlier this month Mrs Robinson declined an invitation to see the show, due to prior commitments.

Meanwhile, renowned theatre company Prime Cut has consistently brought us high quality productions of significant international plays never before seen in Ireland and this year it presents Black Milk, previewing at the Brian Friel Theatre at the QFT tonight.

Company directors Emma Jordan and Edel Magill travelled to Prague in order to source plays which would have a resonance to the situation back home.

Edel said: “We already had the Russian play, Black Milk, on our radar for the showcase and we have developed it more for the festival.

“It is a political play with a small ‘p’ — a play about ordinary poor Russians, far removed from the wealthy oligarchs we read about in the papers.”

On the subject of Eastern Europe, Northern Ireland’s hardworking Polish community is fast becoming a staple element of the cultural landscape here.

Tonight in the Spiegeltent, the Warsaw Village Band puts a new spin on traditional songs from their homeland, combining |dance-club and trance sounds with distinctive vocals and fiddle playing.

And last but not least, Ken Russell arrives at the QFT tomorrow evening to share his experiences of over 50 years in the business. The theatre will be screening some of his landmark films including The Music Lovers, and Savage Messiah.

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