Opening night at Queer Acts

Hot theatre/cool space

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The house was full for all four shows that opened the Queer Acts Theatre Festival last night, and were we ever grateful for The Bus Stop’s new cooling system. Even packed cheek to jowl, the theatre was cool and comfortable.

The plays themselves covered a wide variety of topics from masturbation to polyamory, yet each (perhaps excluding the campy and demonically-driven rock opera Sissydude) sent the message that love, no matter how messy and painful, is ultimately worth it.

Sissydude is a delightfully over-the-top musical that begins as a kind of love letter to life on Gottingen Street and ends at the fiery gates of Hell. Ian Mullan stars as the fey and fickle Jamie, a hoarder of all things beautiful. When two would-be subletters (Jack Black look-alike Connor Purdy and rockin’ chick Michelle Skelding) come knocking, secrets are revealed and much rock and roll music ensues. Fun, fast and fabulous, this show was a real crowd-pleaser.

Tanya Davis was up next with her one-woman show Nonmonog and the Gray Scale Dwellers. Davis is one of those rare performers that holds the audience in the palm of her hand from her very first line. She positively bubbles over with ideas about love, framing them in poetry, song and hilarious understatements. This show is about embracing non-traditional love in a very traditional world. Davis strives to express the beauty and challenges of polyamorous relationships, and in the process the audience leaves feeling a little in love with her.

The new play called Touch by The Doppler Effect really did touch me on many levels. Actors Keelin Jack and Annie Valentina play young cousins Liddy and Fran (age 12 and 15 respectively) who are best friends despite their age difference. Everything changes as Fran crosses the line from childhood to young adulthood, leaving the socially awkward and possibly gay Liddy behind. The play is about, among other things, bullying, self-acceptance, teenage sexuality and the power of love. Jack and Valentina do a remarkable job of capturing the innocence and angst of those turbulent years.

Last up was one of my favourite shows from last year’s Fringe, Short Skirt Butch. It’s the story of the defiantly queer Jean, a young woman who refuses to button-holed by her sexuality. After a love affair goes tragically but humorously wrong, she calls together the audience (who represent the curious gossip mongers in her small-city community) to explain her actions to them. Jean is such a forthright and self-deprecating character, that it’s hard to imagine a group so heartless as to not commiserate with her and understand her actions. Great story telling on a really interesting theme.

For more information on show times and costs, go to: http://www.halifaxpride.com/index.php/pride-week/queer-acts

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