What’s not to like about the Soho Theatre? Its hip, it’s friendly and it’s surrounded by all the bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants that we love to hang out in. There’s a tangible feeling of excitement in the crowd of, mainly, women waiting to see the show tonight (this is the perfect play for lesbian spotting). I have to admit, it is rather thrilling to see a play about us…in mainstream theatre and featured in the Guardian.
Iman Qureshi‘s engaging and powerful play breaks new ground with its intersectional lesbian narrative. It’s beautifully written and doesn’t flinch when tackling complex issues around identity and validation. It also manages to be funny, joyful and heart-warming.
Ministry of Lesbian affairs is the name of a lesbian choir, who meet once a week to sing together. Each of its members has very different views and life experiences. Led by world weary conductor Connie (Shuna Snow) they gossip, flirt and sing their way onto the main stage at London Pride.
The first half is hilarious, opening with a (filthy) lesbian version of “My Favourite Things” (from “The Sound of Music”) The audience, were practically rolling in the aisles by the interval. I loved the song choices (thanks Nicola T Chang) As the play unfolds, conflicts regarding politics and lifestyle emerge within the group, threatening its harmony.
Cue hand and breath holding in the rapt audience.
Lori (Kibong Tanji) “I’m too much of a girl for my colleagues. I’m too much of a boy at church. I’m too black for my customers.”
Fi: (Kiruna Stamell) “Before we even get a chance to be part of the mainstream, we’re divided and subdivided, marginalised all over again…lesbians are practically invisible.”
Brig (Mariah Louca) “How does my being a woman make you less of a woman? There’s enough room for all of us…if we don’t fight for ourselves, for each other, who will?”
Ellie (Fanta Barrie) “I like to keep it casual. Otherwise you get sucked into that lesbian vortex and next thing you know its been seven years and you cant tell her North Face jacket from yours.
Dina (Lara Sawalha) “I’m here on a visa as his wife. So if I left him, I’d have to leave the country. And I cant exactly be a lesbian in Qatar. And I’d probably lose my children.”
Ana (Claudia Jolly) “Finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values.”
All of the characters represented by the cast feel authentic, we laugh and cry with them, their stories reflect the rich diversity of our community. They are deftly directed by Hannah Hauer-King.
The play was produced by Damsel, a company who focus on addressing the misrepresentation and lack of representation of women in theatre.
Iman Qureshi’s aim was to write a play with togetherness at its heart…and to create a lesbian Mecca at the Soho Theatre.
The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs does not disappoint. Don’t miss it.
Soho Theatre Box Office: 0207 478 0100.
Until Sat 11th June 2022