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‘Why our show won’t shy away from showing real gay love on stage’

By Will Stroude

“I’m not homophobic but I fail to see how two men kissing on stage counts as entertainment. It’s not appropriate and we should have been warned.”

This is just one of the negative comments we received from some of the less enlightened audience members when touring the UK five times with our hit musical, Miss Nightingale.

I’m pleased to say the majority of the feedback was extremely positive, full of passion and praise for the show. Most people got in touch to thank us, some even shared their deeply personal stories. Several of which made us cry.

But that nasty, rabid beast of homophobia still regularly reared its ugly head. As a gay man who grew up in the ’80s – those dark days of politically sanctioned homophobic discrimination and media witch hunts – I sadly wasn’t surprised.

Miss Nightingale was created as a reaction to this. It’s a bloody good evening’s entertainment and a rallying call to ‘stand up and be counted’. A reminder that history teaches us that the equal rights we have won, and rightly deserve, should never be taken for granted. They can all too quickly be taken away. And more than ever, right now we need to be vigilant.

Little did we know when we started touring the show back in 2011 just how relevant it would be for 2017. After Brexit, much of the protection against discrimination that LGBT people have enjoyed because of the EU will be in danger. The far right is on the rise across Europe with a platform of repealing or outlawing ‘gay’ (equal) marriage. Then there’s the frankly terrifying, virulently anti-LGBT agenda of the Trump government in the United States. Now more than ever performance, music, satire and story-telling have become key ways to stand up and resist.

Miss Nightingale is written by my husband and we produce it together through our theatre company, Mr Bugg Presents, so I am 100% biased. We decided to do it because we felt that there were so few plays or musicals that featured fully-rounded same-sex relationships. We simply could not see our stories being told on stage.

And I’m not talking about token gay characters relegated to a sub-plot. You know, the camp, gay best friend, the bitchy queen or the deeply closeted loner who may, if they’re lucky, get a boyfriend but they certainly won’t show any passionate action. A hug and a peck on the cheek maybe, if they’re lucky.

That’s why we decided to tell our story of the love between two men in as truthful, authentic and fun way as we could. We wanted to show the whole wonderful, hot, tricky, fabulous mess that is gay relationships. Spoiler alert: Miss Nightingale features a gay love story and yes, the two men kiss. Passionately. On. The. Lips. (They sometimes even use tongues).

Call me a pervert but I do actually think that counts as entertainment. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

‘Miss Nightingale’ is at The Vaults Theatre, London 30 March – 20 May 2017

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Words by Tobias Oliver

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