loud and queer

Ian Shuttleworth talks to Hawaii’s Starving Artists company about old controversy and their new celebratory show.

‘I feel I was born in the wrong country - Americans have this thing called initiative.‘ British-bom writer Godfrey Hamilton is admiring the gumption which led performer Mark W. Pinkosh to set up the Starving Artists theatre company. because ‘nobody in Hawaii was doing the son of work he wanted to see. There is something about Britain and the tallest-poppy syndrome. it‘s very stifling; in America there‘s a celebratory aspect to the culture. somebody will always appreciate and support what you‘re trying to do.‘ Some British arts editors thought they were being hoaxed in 1991, when Starving Artists first visited these shores with a ‘gay Hawaiian hula play‘. They soon learned. Pinkosh and Hamilton create intense, sensuous and

- ‘it all‘ being a virtual lock-out ofthe theatre management. protests from all quarters and the eventual capitulation of landlord and brewery after extensive press attention. Pinkosh took a pragmatic line: ‘I always used to say. “ban me I need the work!”

Sleeping With You follows a young hustler from Hawaii to the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. (‘We were on that march. and it was so life-altering if anybody could remain in the closet after that then there‘s something deeply wrong.‘) Like many Starving Artists shows it is performed by Pinkosh alone. and Hamilton places it within the current wave of American solo performance work. about which he waxes decidedly enthusiastic. ‘In Britain there's still a notion of the “one-person play“. but what‘s happening in America is much more exploratory and all-embracing. with tnarginalised performers standing up in coffee-houses. storefronts. whatever stages they can find. I think I‘m bringing a little bit of British structure to that wild energy.‘ Cue Pinkosh‘s affectionate bathos: ‘Yeah. and you build damn fine railroads. too!‘ I Sleeping With You (Fringe) Starving Artists. Traverse Theatre (Venue IS) 228 I404. I2. I5. I9. 22 Aug. 8pm; I3. I7. 20 Aug lpm; I4. I8. 2I Aug. 4.30pm. £7 (£4).

If -

Starving Artists: ‘we do what we do loudly and cheerfully'

captivating theatre. of which their Fringe debut Sleeping With You is in some ways a culmination. Hamilton says. ‘Mark and I met in London in I988. fell in love and have been together ever since; I moved with him to Hawaii and now to California. I wanted to write a celebration of a queer romance. so there are strong elements of us in this. We‘re a very high-profile couple we do what we do loudly and cheerfully.‘

A bit too loudly and cheerfully for some on last year‘s visit to London‘s Finborough pub theatre the company were banned by Whitbread brewers. ‘The whole business took us by surprise.’ Hamilton recalls. ‘The landlord. a rather seedy little homophobe. was the catalyst for it all'

No more sex war

‘It does get boring being asked about women in comedy. People only ask because it’s the obvious question. They do love to slot you into these bloody pigeonholes.’ Thank you, Donna mm".

It was not ever thus. There must have been a time when it was actually quite refreshing to be asked one’s opinion of funny women, a time when it wasn’t yet a cliche to depict female comics as obsessed by periods and diets, or as groundbreaking indlviduals battling for acceptance on the testosterone- dominated comedy circuit. Those were the days, when wisdom was not so much received as stuffed down your throat.

But, hell, this is 1993, and sometimes it’s hard to be a post-feminist. All the media attention lavished on female comics in the late 80s must have had some effect. Isn’t there even a backlash? McPhail: ‘Look, the publicity was good because it encouraged people who thought women couldn’t be funny maybe to give it another chance. We did very

It must be rewarding for those who broke the mould to see new young Turks having a go. ‘Bloody hell, no,’ says Eclair. ‘l have bad dreams about lines of nubile female comics running to Channel 4 before me because I’m older and I smoke. Don’t do it girls - wait until I’ve retired.’

For lederer, Eclair and McPhail, there’s no longer the risk of being the ‘token woman’ on the bill: all are bringing solo shows to this year’s Fringe, an achievement for any comedian, regardless of gender. ‘We don’t have to fly flags for anyone any more. We’re flying them for ourselves as individuals and as comics. We can put across what we want and not what people think is correct,’ says McPhail. Lederer agrees. ‘I always thought it bizarre to categorise women and not men. Really, all the analysis in the world isn’t going to change having to go out there and be funny.’ (Grace

Eclair: ‘l wasshit for a long time.’

well out of it. If you were a mediocre woman you got more gigs out of it than a mediocre man. I’m not complaining, but now it’s time to move

on, and we must stand up for good or liodge)

bad with the boys.’ Jenny Eclair Peroxide Comedy (Fringe) .lenny Eclair, agrees. ‘I was shit for a long time. My Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 5550, 11

act was positively winsome - reading Aug-4 Sept (not 15 Aug and 2 Sept), poems, for God’s sake.’ Helen lederer 9.15pm, £6.50 (£5.50).

claims to have been unaffected by all the attention. ‘I always had better things to do than think about being a woman in comedy - were the lights going to work? Who was looking after my child? I don’t think we should feed the hype.’

Donna McPhail (Fringe) Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2151 , 13 Aug-4 Sept (not 24 and 31), 8.30pm, £6 (£5).

Still Crazy After All These Years (Fringe) llelen lederer, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 13 Aug-4 Sept (not 23), 8pm, £748 (CG-£7).


The night is but young - Sue Wilson picks out live shows you can notch up well before you retire to that small- hours drinking den.

I An Audience With An African Queen Biting black comedy from renowned South African satin'st Pieter Dirk Uys. An Audience With An African Queen (Fringe) Pieter Dirk Uys. Assembly at the Meadows (Venue 116) 226 2468. I3 Aug—4 Sept, 8pm. £6.50 (£5.50).

I Rich flail UK debut for an ex-street performer turned highly successful comedian. veteran of umpteen appearances on Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show.

Rit‘h Hall (Fringe) Fools Paradise. Moray House (Venue [08) 556 5184. I3 Aug—4 Sept (not [6. 23, 30). 9.45pm. £6. 50 (£5).

I noll-A-Pea Poland's Wiers'zalin Theatre with a visually and aurally stunning blend of folklore and contemporary issues. dialogue and song. realism and symbolism. based on a Byelorussian folk-tale.

Roll-A-Pea (Fringe) Wterszalin Theatre, Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425, I3 Aug—4 Sept (not 15). 8.30pm. £7 (£4).

I Lilith Tenth anniversary European premiere for the acclaimed Melanie Stewart Dance company. inspired by the biblical and mythological story of Adam‘s first wife.

Lilith (Fringe) Melanie Stewart Dance. Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425. 13—28 Aug (not 15. 22). 9.45pm. £6 (£3.50).

I Churchill’s Shorts London University Theatre Company follow up last year‘s successful visit with a rare chance to see three one-act plays by Caryl Churchill Not Enough Oxygen. More Sleepless Nights and Lovesick. Churchill 3 Shorts (Fringe) London University Theatre Company. Celtic Lodge (Venue 6) 225 7097. 15—28 Aug (not Mons). 9pm. £4.50 (£3).


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