David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Culture
You don't have to be in line to the throne to appreciate King Lear: its appeal is universal. Similarly, not all gay theatre is navel- gazing for the nipple-clamped. Few are willing to categorise themselves as "gay writers", regarding the term as restrictive or counterproductive. Most see themselves as "a writer who is gay", thus avoiding patronising descriptions like "one of our best gay dramatists".

It's all about breadth of appeal and moving into the mainstream. Going for the mass audience is, of course, a dangerous goal to pursue. A blanket appeal usually ends up smothering the specifics and God/ perfection/ what you will is, as we know, in the details. "Nay, nay," cry the woolly liberals "we're all just people". This translates as "don't flaunt it". As far as they're concerned, gays are just like everybody else (ie them), so why make a song and dance about it? The implicit message is: "I don't mind gays as long as they act straight."

Manchester's "It's Queer Up North" is a useful corrective to such nonsense. As well as a wealth of British work, this year's festival features artists from Australia, Israel and Germany. There's also plenty of input from the USA including Road Movie (right), the latest from Independent Theatre Award-winners, Starving Artists.

In Cambridge, women queued at the stage door for half an hour afterwards to talk about how moving the piece was, echoing the power of the Edinburgh performances, where everyone from little old ladies cried, cheered and applauded. Producer Guy Chapman sees it as a profoundly gay piece, which "unghettoises" gay writing. Nobody disagrees. It has already won awards, the script is being published, but as anyone who has seen Pinkosh's heart- stopping performance will testify, you have to be there.

`Road Movie' is at the Library Theatre, Manchester (0161-236 7110) until tomorrow, and then tours.

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