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Counterculture 50 at Ovalhouse

Fringe theatre Ovalhouse is 50 years old and still going strong


Widely regarded as one of the city’s leading fringe theatre spaces, this small but vibrant south London venue has staged countless gay and lesbian plays and helped launch the careers of many LGBT performers. Bette Bourne, Gay Sweatshop, David Hoyle, LaJohn Joseph, Michael Twaits, Diane Torr and Lois Weaver have all performed here.

In the past few years alone there have been thought-provoking plays about Rock Hudson, transgender identity, the darker side of gay male hedonism and the lives of black lesbians in London and South Africa.

As it’s history month, it seems only fitting that the theatre’s Counterculture 50 season looks to the past, with performances pinned to various decades. ‘Crimplene Millionaire’ is Boogaloo Stu’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to ’70s game shows, in which he stars as creepy host-with-a-comb-over Derek Daniels. In ‘The Lady’s Not for Walking Like an Egyptian’, Margaret Thatcher’s political speeches are mixed with Top Ten hits by female artists for an ’80s nostalgia trip in legwarmers.

‘Love On Trial’ by Bilimankhwe Arts intercuts a story of gay life in Malawi with the press frenzy surrounding George Michael’s arrest for ‘lewd conduct’ in a Los Angeles toilet in 1998. Finally there’s ‘Kinky’ by 2Headed Pigeon, a punk cabaret which uses the real-life testimonies of sadomasochists and fetishists to explore state censorship of sexual behaviour.

As you’d expect from Ovalhouse, this is a lively season, which strikes a variety of notes, from the playful to the political. There’ll be something to amuse and plenty to celebrate.

Here’s to the next 50 years. Counterculture 50 is at Ovalhouse until March 2.


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