The Arcola Queer Collective’s first production is a fusion of cabaret, new writing and Shakespeare, performed by an ensemble representing East London’s LGBTQI community, and devised with the help ofwriter Patrick Cash
The idea of interlacing Shakespeare scenes with monologues in contemporary English works surprisingly well – with scenes on themes ranging from the present situation in Athens to prejudices surrounding HIV nestling quite comfortably alongside the Shakespeare. The flip-side of this successful updating of themes is that the scenes themselves sometimes pale by comparison.
Miss Cairo in the role of Titania and Rubyyy Jones as Oberon are highlights – satisfyingly brash and ballsy. The design is by turns elegant and trashy – monochrome 80s in no way compromised by the fake flowers and the glitter. The scripted scenes are alternately entertaining and astute – one highlight being a monologue in which Bottom questions the irony of implicit gender construction in a nominally queer production. Enter mechanicals, in tight black PVC trousers.
The Arcola Queer Collective is an important initiative – and this production demonstrates a willingness to produce challenging and thought provoking work. It would be nice to see a stronger focus on the devised elements in future productions!