Lavender Menace was a LGBT, radical and feminist bookshop in Edinburgh that started life in the cloakroom of Fire Island, a gay nightclub on Princes Street. The shop moved premises and was active on Forth Street in the early 1980’s, before it shut it’s doors in 1987. The story follows Lewis (Pierce Reid) and Glen (Mathew McVarish) as they reminisce about the early days of the shop and pay tribute to the pioneering owners Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielsen.
The dynamic relationship between Lewis and Glen is at the heart of Love Song To Lavender Menace. They riff off each other and indulge themselves in nostalgia and over the top performance as they recount tales of love, dancing and activism. A soundtrack of Bronski Beat (with the classic Smalltown Boy) and The Communards helps set the tone and build up the rhythm of the performance. Meanwhile references to writers such as James Baldwin, Armistead Maupin, Jeanette Winterson and Jean Genet remind us of the importance of LGBT writers and how their words should never be sidelined. Speaking of important writers, playwright James Ley has crafted a script filled with humour, character and spirit and it is his words that empahaise the aforementioned dynamism between the two performers.
The set (by designer and theatre-maker Mamoru Iriguchi) evokes a cluttered bookstore, where the shelves appear to be chalk sketches with illuminated books on top. It is a subtle blank canvas for the performers to paint a picture of 80’s Edinburgh, where the fierce exuberance of Fire Island, the need for LGBT spaces and uptight conservative politics collide.
Love Song To Lavender Menace returns to Edinburgh after a sell-out run last year at the Royal Lyceum Theatre. For the Edinburgh Fringe it is being presented as part of the Made In Scotland showcase. This is a collection of performances from Scottish based artists and companies that can be seen at a variety of venues throughout the festival. Love Song To Lavender Menace is definitely a standout within this programme and one which deserves to be seen again, even if you caught it first time around.