Love Song to Lavender Menace (4 stars)

This article is from 2018

Love Song to Lavender Menace

LGBTQ+ history without sentimentality or too much tragedy

Providing a whistlestop tour of the history of Edinburgh's LGBT community, Love Song to Lavender Menace (directed by Ros Philips) is a romantic comedy that eschews any kind of schmaltz. James Ley's script, and Matthew McVarish and Pierce Reid's performances, understand that moments of passion shine brighter when contrasted with a hint of darkness.

Set in an LGBT bookshop in the 80s (the Lavender Menace of the title), the play repudiates the tendency of some popular queer art to focus on trauma and misery and tells a story brimming with joy. It doesn't, however, present a sanitised view of the gay community's experience in early 80s Edinburgh. The show is punctuated by monologues from an unnamed gay man, married to a woman, terrified to come out. But, Lavender Menace refuses to let the era be defined entirely by suffering.

The most tear-inducing scenes involve the protagonists reminiscing on how being part of a supportive LGBT community was liberating and life-affirming. Though there is a film of nostalgia (Jimmy Somerville's falsetto provides the play's refrain), it never obscures what's underneath and instead simply serves to emphasise the sense of a captured moment in time.

Lavender Menace expertly provides its audience with a small dose of the ecstasy that the bookshops patrons must have felt on discovering knowledge previously denied to them. It is an ode to the power of solidarity and a tribute not just to the bookshop that inspired it but LGBT spaces the world over as well.

Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), 12.55pm, £12 (£10).

Love Song to Lavender Menace

James Ley's play set in a gay bookshop in 1987 Edinburgh.