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EdFringe 2018 Review: Love Song to Lavender Menace

Love Song to Lavender Menace
Rating: ★★

Venue: Summerhall - Techcube
Tickets



Edinburgh's gay scene gets a heartfelt celebration in Love Song to Lavender Menace which presents a touching romantic story set against the backdrop of 1980s politics. Penned by James Ley and directed by Ros Philips, this play showcases two intelligent performances from Matthew McVarish and Pierce Reid.

Love Song to Lavender Menace sees Glen (McVarish) and Lewis (Reid) gathered in Lavender Menace, Edinburgh's first gay bookshop planning a celebration for the owners before the shop closes its doors for good. The pair reminisce about the shop's inception from the cloakroom of Fire Island nightclub and its eventual longevity as the beating heart of Edinburgh's gay community.

Opening by setting the scene of gay life in 1980s - the need for discretion felt by many, suppressing the urge to embrace the gay scene, fears of homophobic casuals - as Reid gruffly stands under a spotlight on an eerie black stage. The context is set by the scene and this becomes an interesting juxtaposition to the liberal utopia that Lavender Menace book shop becomes. Reid soon changes character, embracing the role of the passionate, tightly-wound Lewis - who is working on preparing a farewell performance for the owners of Lavender Menace Book Shop. The gruffness is abandoned as Lewis listens to The Communard's Don't Leave Me This Way and flounces with carefree abandon.

Lewis is joined by fellow bookstore employee, Glen, where the pair bounce off each other with playful, flirtatious banter. Glen and Lewis have a wonderfully authentic dynamic thanks to natural performances from McVarish and Reid. The pair soon begin reminiscing about the inception of the shop, their first meeting and the fun had in the queer bookshop. The discussion of queer safe spaces becomes a recurring theme with the city's Fire Island nightclub and the bookshop becoming integral to much of the narrative development of Ley's play - in which he celebrates the impact they had in establishing Edinburgh's queer voice.

Set amidst Thatcher's time in Parliament, there's a sense of hope that emits from Lavender Menace book shop in Ley's play. The power and ability that one could buy LGBT texts in the city is something of a miracle in eighties Britain, an ability that we take for granted in this day and age. The production uses anecdote and music from its period setting to add further life and flair to the proceedings, Eurythmics and Erasure make appearance - whilst anecdotes about Eartha Kitt and Divine's turns performing in Edinburgh are shared.

Love Song to Lavender Menace
is a celebration of the pioneering titular store and people behind it, a celebration of queer identiy, and a celebration of the power and possibilities of hope that the written word can provide. It is a treat from start to finish.
Theatre Review 6541387004452888657
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