TheSpace @the Surgeon’s Hall (Venue 53)

August 3rd to 24th (not 18th)

*** Three Stars

This is a cheerful and entertaining speedy power-point lecture from Geoffrey Brown, covering the way in which gay male characters have been portrayed on stage and screen over the past hundred years. This is a great deal to cover in fifty minutes, but we get there with some time to spare for questions.

Examples, starting from the early days, appear rapidly on the screen, with a score relating to Geoffrey’s Queerometer, which scores each item according to whether this piece of LGBTQI entertainment still means stereotypes, misery, villains or death. Scores range from 0 to 8. I did not notice anything getting more than an 8.

The focus is almost entirely on gay male material, as Geoffrey says he is only qualified in that area and it provides more than enough to be going on with. When I mentioned Terrence Rattigan at the end I was told that that was a slide that had to go because of lack of time. I expect there were many such slides.

The impression I gained from this talk was the familiar sense of how negative the portrayal of homosexuality in society – in press, academia, religion, psychiatry, as well as in the arts, has been historically, and still is to some extent. Even those plays and films that we see as “our” classics sometimes carry negative messages. Others – like “The Boys in the Band” from the early 70’s – were seen as “achievements” largely because they put three dimensional gays out there in the public realm, but still showed us a pretty neurotic.

The colourful title stems from the focus on what we do together – hence Buggery, and the way our sex lives were almost seen as the whole of us, Bulgarians from a comment attributed to Samuel Goldwyn, Brokeback from that Mountain film, which, as Geoffrey said, is maybe really about bisexuality, and beyond, up to the more positive but not unthreatened present.

This is a humorous and fairly light hearted romp through the years, but as gay villain follows gay villain, gay suicide follows gay suicide, the picture emerges of a society terrified of accepting gays as people with rights to be respected. The message surely is, that those of us at all involved in making gay images, for now, need to respect and cherish our image -, not make our image goody-goody, but make it real and true in all its variety.

Tony Challis