FESTIVAL ’94 AGENDA
Edinburgh AIDS workers are enlisting the massed ranks of gay performers at the Festival to promote the safe sex message. Craig McLean looks at the inﬂuence
‘Queer Rage’ politics imported from America is having on popular culture
Had enough Festival fever? Fringe beneﬁts palling by the minute? Tattoo getting under your skin? Scottish AIDS Monitor has the solution: Healthy Horny Happenings at SAM‘s Highland Fling. These ‘gay Highland Games‘ were conceived by SAM as a way of celebrating gay culture and refocusing the safe sex message to take account of the risk posed to young gay men — the group with the highest rate of increase of HIV-infection in Edinburgh. ‘The only way you‘re going to get young men making the right decisions about safe sex is if they‘re comfortable with what they are sexually.‘ explains SAM project worker Leo Devlin.
As well as traditional Highland events. the Highland Fling includes events like Tossing The Stiletto and (literally) Drag Racing. The dance tent will feature DJs from Edinburgh clubs Joy. Taste and The Sunday Club. And. making the best use of the international cosmOpolitanism afoot in Edinburgh during the Festival. there will be a cabaret tent. Alongside Fringe favourites like Julian Clary. Bob Downe and Penny Arcade. American stand-ups Scott Capurro and Mark Davis will take the stage.
The Americans' shows — Risk-Gay and Industrial Strength Queer respectively — are among the funniest on the Fringe. Can we plot lofty sociological/psychological theories and say that when gay artists are able to throw off societal repression. when they run the gauntlet of abuse on the ‘straight circuit‘. what results is a purer. stronger. more vibrant. more honest show? Or are they just funny guys. regardless of their sexuality? Scott Capurro has thought about this a lot. ‘but I still don't know what the answer is.‘ What he does know. though. is the emancipatory power of seeing another gay man on stage. on his own terms. ‘When l say in the show that the last five guys l‘ve dated have all become comics. that‘s really a true line. I hope. of course. that aspiring young guys see the show and think. i can do that.‘
‘Anger can be really useful,‘ says Mark Davis of the force known in America as ‘Queer Rage‘. ‘You can snap and shoot people or you can make
things with it. Then it can be really productive. especially politically.‘
And out of Queer Rage comes Queer Glory.
By a happy accident oftiming the Highland Fling also coincides with the arrival at the Fringe oftwo of New York‘s hottest productions. with both expected to join the festivities on the day. David Drake brings his one-man off-Broadway smash The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. while legendary cabaret stars Hot Peaches roll into Scotland with a ‘greatest hits‘ retrospective. Both shows are life-as- art. personal diaries of what it‘s like to be young and gay in the city that sparked Stonewall and in turn inspired gay liberation. ‘The audiences enjoy our shows because they‘re so much fun.‘ say Hot Peaches. ‘lt isn‘tjust this antiseptic, sterile. separate piece of art. We don‘t just switch it on and off.‘
David Drake‘s play came out of artistic catharsis. On the sixteenth anniversary of Stonewall. aged 22. he saw Larry Kramer‘s pivotal piece The Normal Heart. ‘That was the night I was awakened.‘ he says nine years on. ‘You grow through the isolation and the repression. you burst through it. like a
Highland Fling: alive and kicking
rite of passage . . . Whether it’s specifically to do with the AIDS epidemic or not. incrementally i feel that the gay and lesbian community. at least in America. has pushed forward. Nothing is going to stop me. I’m alive and kicking!‘
SAM‘s Highland Fling. replete with its sports. cabaret. stalls. camp and spoof Scott‘s porridge oats poster design. is out to lightheartedly reinforce that message and that feeling. And remember: if you‘re getting your oats. use a condom.
SAM ‘3 Highland F ling. The Meadows. Sat 27. norm—8pm. free.
I Risk-an (Fringe) Scott Capurro. Southside (Venue 82) 667 7365. until 3 Sept, 10.30pm. £5 (£4).
I Industrial Strength Oueer (Fringe) Mark Davis. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. until 3 Sept. 6pm. £7/£8 (£6/£7).
I The flight Larry Kramer Kissed Me (Fringe) Sandpiper Productions, Traverse Theatre (Venue l5) 228 1404, until 3 Sept. 10.30pm. £8 (£5).
I The float (Fringe) Hot Peaches. Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) 28 1404. until 3 Sept. 12.15am. £8 (£5).
V FESTIVAL PROFILE
The overwhelming injustice of apartheid has given black South African theatre a sense of purpose for decades. flow with that focus of resistance fragmenting, playwrights are casting about for new ways to articulate the hopes of a country united, at least in theory, behind flelson Mandela.
Raymond Otto, a young writer working as a community dramatist in Soweto, believes too many playwrights relied on a documentary style of narrative, now ill-suited to the mood of optimism in South Africa. In his two musical theatre pieces, Have Mercy! and Fool’s Paradise, Otto says he tried to avoid being ‘caught in the web’ of writingonly about the bad things that have happened in South Africa.
‘I knew one day that we would be free and to do that was an artistic dead end,’ he says. ‘South African groups were coming overseas to be newspapers and I don’t believe that is
theatre.’ Otto has worked for three years to
raise enough money to bring one of his group, Soweto Paradise Artists, to Edinburgh — this year it was made possible by sponsorship from Mercedes. The fact that a small community theatre group can secure , sponsorship at all is probably an indication of changing attitudes in South Africa’s white-dominated corporate sector. However, Otto believes white employers’ attitudes haven’t changed that much. ‘They still i believe black can’t succeed,’ he says.
Otto attributes his single-mindedness to a forceful mother, a single parent who struggled to pay for her four children’s schooling. He believes without the sense of discipline his mother taught him, he could easily have ended up in a township dead- end.
When he returns to South Africa, Otto’s dream is to build a community theatre which would give a sense of purpose to young black South Africans who have not yet benefited from the changes in their country. “My arnbftion is to get young people involved in theatre because there are so many on the streets sniffing glue,’ he says. (Eddie Gibb) flave Mercy! is at Gilded Balloon II, Stepping Stones (Venue 38) until 3
Sept, 5.30mi, £6 (£5).
5 The List 26 August—8 September 1994