Glasgay! Festival Double Bill

Glasgay Festival 2014 – Double Bill

By Jimmy Owens

Good things come in small packages. The old cliché seems rather apt when describing the two short plays wonderfully produced by Cardboard Fox, an emerging Glasgow-based company, which focuses on bringing lesser known and under-performed work to Scotland. Directed by Helen Cuinn, the double bill at Rose & Grant’s Café on the Trongate is part of the Glasgay Festival 20 Oct – 15 Nov 2014, a celebration of LGBT culture.

Mr & Mrs Laughton

Michael-Alan Read’s subtle performance as troubled genius, Charles Laughton, opens up the window into Laughton’s most secret of lives. Providing the anchor to Laughton’s wayward life is his long suffering wife Elsa Lanchester brought to life through a strong, yet eloquent performance by Angela Cassidy. We find ourselves in the 1930’s with Elsa telling the tale of the relationship with Charles from her point of view. Charles, as always, is more interested in his research for the many roles he has come to play than Elsa. The crippling self-doubt that overcomes Charles is balanced out by the devoted support and reassurance from Elsa. After two years of courting they are married.

Underneath the mask of a happy marriage lay the real tale. The ethos that you have to be yourself to be happy is never truer when the secret lives of Charles and Elsa are examined. And it is a message which will resonate with many today by those struggling with their identity.

Elsa is the real victim with Charles’ inner demons taking her along for the ride. Her love for him is never reciprocated. She misses out on the love that only a lover can provide. She was the rock to his pathetic genius, constantly running and hiding from problems. Elsa was the mother and Charles was the child.

The direction of the play expertly captures and emotes the feeling of pretence. Charles is tormented by having to hide his sexuality in an oppressive era and Elsa’s need to fulfil her alternative bohemian lifestyle makes for a jarring juxtaposition, which really stands out against the backdrop of a seemingly traditional marriage. While it is clear that she adores Charles, perhaps it is safe to say that he was an unconventional choice for a life mate. Both parts are acted brilliantly, with Cassidy providing the context to Read’s moody, childish outbursts.

The fluent dialogue of the here and now of the play is punctuated by flashbacks to events in the life of the pair. From their first meeting, the films and plays they shared, through to the death of Charles the central theme of the story emerges. An account of self-loathing and struggling with identity which is interwoven with clever, witty humour in the 1930’s vernacular.




The Madness of Lady Bright

Continuing the theme of self-loathing is Lanford Wilson’s “The Madness of Lady Bright”, a story revolving around one man’s descent into madness. Michael-Alan Read returns for the second show of the night as Leslie, an over the hill, cross-dressing homosexual living in a New York apartment. Playing Leslie’s personalities are the adaptable Martin McBride as “Boy” and Lynette Holmes as “Girl”, both of whom represent the feminine and masculine side of Leslie as well as complimenting the anxious performance from Read.

At the heart of the play is a sad story about a lost love being searched for but never replaced. The pursuit of happiness for this drag queen has twists and turns that leads us down the rabbit hole with unrelenting realism. It is an examination of the psyche of a soul tormented by his inability to be fully at peace with his own identity.

Not lost on the audience was the subtle use of music which coincided with a bout of sanity for Leslie, however, as the music came to an end his mania re-emerges out of the shadow. This is further punctuated by being full of confidence in himself before descending to become a self-hating critic.

From the start of the play you get the feeling that you are in a mad house, confronted with Leslie’s split personality. The mad scribbling on the walls of his rooms are the signatures of his lovers. His memories of days past, the folly of youth and of happier times represent the thin line between madness and sanity.

I was thoroughly impressed by Read’s performance, the dexterity with which he traversed the moods of Leslie were seamless. His ability to shift from one emotion to the other so violently was the driving force of the play. It ultimately leaves you examining your own life, your own decisions and your own demons. Leslie could not face up to his and it drove him mad, hoping that one day his lost love would return.if (document.currentScript) {