Review: Polari @ Chapter
Chapter Arts Centre
Tuesday 6th October 2015
With the build up to the Iris Prize this week, Cardiff is a bit more queer than usual, near to the point of over exposure.
With this evening of LGBT+ inspired writing, I did expect there to be at least some of the namesake featured. Polari (for those that don't know) is a made up language used by gay men, but also circus artists, merchant sailors, travellers etc. It is a heady fusion of Italian, Romani Gypsy, Irish and other languages. It's also great to use.
Though a shame not to hear any sort of words like "naff" or "bona vadra" thrown at us, we did get very personal works from half a dozen or so writers. Rhian Elizabeth may need to work on here delivery, but the script is telling of a young, Tom boy who grew up in a local valley. Alex Drummond gave an insightful transgender perspective on the first time going out in public in a dress and the plight of the reaction in Bristol.
With a workshop the same afternoon (I do wish I had known about this), Thomas Williams was chosen to present his piece. It's a telling story about the places men go for casual sex (known as cottaging). It's a haunting piece, perhaps filled with regrets and a sense of seeking out unfelt desires.
American writer Carey Wood-Duffy is a great find. With brief (or, as she put it, "concentrated") pieces inspired by beat poetry, there is a lifetime in these works. How telling they are, in their blossoming observations on the gay lifestyle and what it feels like to lose someone who was simply "perfect". Our host Paul Burston gave a telling tale of his character Philip Davies. It accounts him growing up gay in the 80s and the joy/woes of that time.
Local writer David Llewellyn in his newly written short story Ruby Street, details the unspeakable and infuriating journey to a funeral with fellow family members. Detailing a father character who could easily knock you out or have you feeling completely lost, the piece is a sad one only as much as the deceased is missed.
Ending proceedings is the immortal VG Lee. Her witty observations as an lesbian elder are charming, and often filled with situation comedy that wouldn't be out of place in a Victoria Wood sketch. Deirdre - a sort of "frenemy", who she can't quite make up her mind on - is part friend, part enemy. Their antics in books shops and cinemas are hilarious and Deirdre's anti-lesbian attitude is quashed at every opportunity in more brilliant and eye watering ways. How come I didn't know about VG Lee???
Incisive, inventive & inspiring.
Rating: 4 stars
Polari continues on tour with dates in Bristol, Brighton and other locations. All feature free workshops for aspiring writers.
You can read more about Alex Drummond, "what is transgender", and more here.
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Image: Chapter Arts Centre