Peter Scott-Presland: A GAY CENTURY
This is a collection of ten short plays, designed to be performed as mini-operas. I watched several of them, played but not sung, on Zoom last year. They each encapsulate a chapter of gay history, revisited or re-imagined. All of them are clever and interesting. They are all good. A few of them are outstanding. My absolute favourite is the first one, Two Queens, set in 1900, in which Queen Victoria visits Oscar Wilde on his deathbed in Paris. Her Majesty is given liberty to borrow some of Oscar’s most famous lines!
Wilde (or his ghost) pops up in some of the later dramas, affirming his role as the “patron saint” of gay liberation. EM Forster, Siegfried Sassoon. Noel Coward – many iconic gay figures of the century are here, revisited or re-imagined. Radclyffe Hall supplies, rather earnestly, the L in LGBT. Ivor Novello, sentenced to prison for fiddling petrol coupons during WW2, shares a cell with a psychotic gangster. The Jeremy Thorpe scandal is re-interpreted with Norman Scott’s dogs given voices and a key role! There’s an episode in Weimar Berlin that features Gerald Hamilton, said to be the inspiration for Christopher Isherwood’s Mr Norris; the play is a splendid ‘companion piece’ to Cabaret; I’d love to hear it sung.
Peter Scott-Presland has risen splendidly to the challenge of giving historical characters an ironic and incisive new script (to sing!). A Gay Century is a towering achievement. And Volume Two is due out soon.