Behind the scenes at the UK’s only LGBT-focused theatre!
Above The Stag Theatre is London’s delightful LGBT thespian oasis. A gorgeous corner of performance and campery, the sort of thing that would make Satine from Moulin Rouge turn around and gasp and send her diamonds clattering across the floorboards. In case you hadn’t already guessed, they specialize in LGBT theatre. In fact, they’re the only theatre in the UK that’s exclusively LGBT-focused. Stick that in your pantaloons and smoke it! They’ve recently had a large opening (stop it) at a shiny new location under one of those fab and notorious Vauxhall railway arches. We spoke to Artistic Director Peter Bull to find out more.
Hey Peter! So tell us all about your grand relocation. It’s been three weeks since you moved – how’s it going?
The response has been amazing. People are really blown away by the new venue. Beautiful Thing in the main house has completely sold out its entire run. Our new studio opens on June 26th with a lesbian comedy, The Penetration Play.
What kind of crowd do you get? Are young people into gay theatre?
We get a very mixed crowd age wise. It’s a great place to integrate and socialise with people from all walks of life. Whilst we attract a mainly gay audience, we do have very loyal gay-friendly straight supporters.
What kind of vibe do you want to create in your new home?
We want to create a place where people feel safe and can experience something different to just drinking or clubbing. Our cafe and bar is open to everyone, not just audiences attending a performance. It’s a place where you can meet and chat in a comfortable, non-threatening environment.
You’ve made a name for yourselves being the UK’s only gay-focused theatre. Tell us what that’s been like. Have you ever had any opposition?
We are the only full time LGBT + theatre in the UK. We’ve come a long way in ten years, from a small function room above the now demolished Stag pub in Victoria. We’ve had a few misses, but a lot of hits, which we put down to hard work and listening to our customers. I don’t recall any outright opposition, however the journey has not been without its critics. We engage with constructive criticism and ignore the destructive.
With the rise of social media etc, people’s attention spans are waning, but everyone still seems to be transfixed by theatre. Why do you think that is?
Theatre gives people a chance to escape the technology of television, social media etc and experience something live collectively. There’s something about the connection you can create between an audience and live actors that you simply cannot do on film or television.
Why is it important to have theatre centred around LGBT life?
Theatre gives us a voice, and an LGBT+ theatre creates a platform for artists who possibly would not be heard in the mainstream. Whilst we have a large LGBT + audience, we also reach out to a straight audience who otherwise wouldn’t hear our stories.
What plays have you got on at the moment?
We’re currently coming to end of the run of Beautiful Thing. This will be followed by GRINDR The Opera! which opens for Pride and runs to the end of August. The Penetration Play opens next week, and Patrick Cash’s highly acclaimed The Chemsex Monologues plays four performances as part of our Pride week celebrations.
What’s in store for the future?
Ronnie Larsen’s comedy Happy Ending opens late July in the studio followed by The Next Lesson, which deals with the effects of the Thatcher government’s infamous Section 28. September sees the stage adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Maurice in the main house, followed by our panto, Mother Goose Cracks One Out!
And finally…which famous guest would make you the most excited if they suddenly turned up in the audience?
We’ve had some pretty big names from the world of entertainment and politics visit us so have become unfazed. We’re still waiting on a member of the royal family though. William? Harry?
Above The Stag is at 72 Albert Embankment, SE1 7TP.
Tickets are currently on sale for five shows at Above The Stag Theatre – Grindr: The Opera!, The Chemsex Monologues, The Penetration Play, Maurice and Mother Goose Cracks One Out!
For more info, listings and tickets, head to abovethestag.com