The Ministry Of Lesbian Affairs is about a lesbian choir set on making it to the main stage for this year’s Pride festival. As marketed, “harmony is more easily dreamt than realised…”. Though Pride is for the entire LGBTQIA+ community, quite a few of those acronyms become white noise in mainstream events and media; only in recent times are lesbians specifically beginning to have a visible presence that isn’t fetishised or stereotyped (I’m talking about shows like Mae Martin’s Feel Good). Like any place of belonging, there will be functioning, infighting, and cliques, be it a playground, a boardroom, or a choir; this is the central plot that Qureshi sets for us. It’s salty and full of drama. A new member (Dina, played by Lara Sawalha) joins the choir and it upsets the apple cart. The choir’s common goal is making it to Pride in harmony (see what I did there?).
That’s it in a nutshell- though the upset doesn’t really kick you in the nether regions till the second half. The second half is more complex and probing, and echoes a lot of the conflicting and confusing feelings around what it means to be female in a world dictated by men- let alone being additionally disabled, lesbian, trans, or a person of colour- the list goes on. The infighting is just misdirected anger, right? We can all be arseholes to each other and choose not to be.
There are a couple of confusing details. It’s not entirely clear who was being blamed for the downfall in the second act, factually at least, and perhaps it wasn’t that important because everyone eventually was somehow to blame. But that lack of clarity echoes the factionalism IRL. We can do better than that.
The whole cast shines. Shuna Snow as the choirmaster was every choir leader I ever encountered. Fayez Bakhsh had the difficult task of being a generic “man” in all his privileged guises, and Bakshs does so well- even handling a set malfunction with waspy vigour. Kibong Tanji gently sizzles as Lori, a lesbian in hiding, quietly emotes her inner challenges with warmth.
It’s not a moral bashing over the head, mind. It’s more warm and fuzzy socialism at its core and it is incredibly, originally funny. If you’re into your parodies, there are a few corkers. I laughed, I cried. It warmed the heart. Qureshi wanted to make space for lesbians and women (all women!) to have a moment where they could be moved and feel something together that was about them. My husband held my hand the entire time, and I wasn’t the only one sniffling away in the audience. I’d urge anyone to pay a visit to The Ministry while it’s still on.
- By Iman Qureshi
- Directed by Hannah Hauer-King
- Music directors: Nicola T.Chang & Victoria Calver
- Cast includes: Kiruna Stamell, Mariah Louca, Kibong Tanji, Claudia Jolly, Fanta Barrie, Lara Sawalha, Shuna Snow
- Soho Theatre
- Until 11th June 2022
- Running time approx. 2hrs 15 mins inc. interval