Summerhall (Venue 26)

August 1st to 26th (Not 6,13)

**** (4 Stars)

This is a vibrant and joyous celebration of the LGBT bookshop that opened in Forth Street in Edinburgh in 1982, at the height of the Thatcher period, at the time of the Falklands War, and when Channel 4 was brand new. A very different time.

This was only a short time after the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality that happened in England and Wales in 1967 had been made legal in Scotland – in 1980. The fears that were so widespread then are emphasised at the opening of this show as we see a young male figure walking, passing the shop, seeing the lights and the books, but fearing to go in, fearing even the names he may be called for loitering near it. This was reality then.

But soon we are in the vital, welcoming environs of the shop itself as shop assistants Glen (Matthew McVarish ) and Lewis (Pierce Reid) prepare to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the opening of the shop. They look back to the opening by Rob and Sigrid in 1982, and they discuss events since that stay in their memory – like a staff member becoming a papier mache orange ( no prizes for guessing which novel this relates to.)

As they argue and discuss they may reconfigure your ideas about such significant writers as James Baldwin and E M Forster. Yet this is no kind of heavy lecture. They reflect on happy times at Fire Island, a club at the time. There is dressing in different guises and dancing. There are the sounds of Jimmy Somerville and others. Plus there is emphasis on what a very positive effect the shop had on LGBT life in the city at that time, and how it no doubt reduced the number of scared walkers in the dark.

Writer James Ley and director Ros Phillips are to be congratulate on this delightful and exhilarating show, presented in association with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, where it has already had a very successful run.

Catch it while you can at this Fringe; it is a bright and enlightening and fun visit to part of our past, and one to be treasured.

Tony Challis