Friday, 18 October 2013

The Gates

Summerhall, Edinburgh
Three stars
If a fire alarm such as the one that briefly delayed the first night of the ConFAB company's new musical theatre collaboration with Dance HQ had affected the show's subject, one suspects all involved would have merely shrugged and got on with it. Because writer/director Rachel Jury and composer Andrew Cruikshank's homage to London's legendary lesbian nightclub, The Gateways, reveals a clandestine world where standing proud and defiant was everything. In the 1950s, before gay bars and discos broke cover, the King's Road basement club was the only fun in town, be it for sharp-suited women, Chelsea bohemians or the assorted movie stars who frequented its smoky interior.

Utilising a mammoth twenty-five strong cast that includes singer/song-writer Lorna Brooks and politician Rosie Kane, plus a four-piece band led by Cruikshank on double bass, Jury and co have attempted to capture the speak-easy hedonism of The Gates via a loose-knit narrative involving gangsters, their molls and a love that finally does dare speak its name. The central affair revolves around Jo, one of the club's regulars, and Judy, the blonde appendage of gang leader Chelsea Charlie. With dialogue kept to a minimum, their story is told primarily through a series of rousing jazz-tinged numbers, with Seweryna Aga Dudzinkska as Jo and Jennifer Dempster as Judy on particularly fine voice.

If Jo and Judy's doomed love story is as old-fashioned as in any other period musical, The Gates is also a show about a hidden community that existed underground out of necessity. Glasgow audiences can check this out for themselves when The Gates moves into the Classic Grand for its Glasgay! run next week.

The Herald, October 18th 2013


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