Go west! Gay storylines are drawing crowds to theatres in London's West End and fringe

The best of times is now, goes the song in La Cage aux Folles. And so it would seem for gay plays and musicals. No fewer than 10 productions currently in London's West End feature gay themes or talent.

Box-office successes for Jason Donovan in the transvestite road trip Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Alan Bennett's biographical Enjoy, and Graham Norton in the award-winning La Cage have shattered the widely held belief that gay theatre doesn't sell.

Gradually, gay productions have taken a stronghold over ticket sales to an unprecedented level. Nicholas de Jongh, theatre critic and writer of Plague over England, believes theatre producers may have at last realised gay plays do bring in audiences. "There are a lot of gay plays and musicals around; in fact, I don't ever remember seeing more. For years producers thought anything specifically gay was a no-go in terms of bringing in large audiences. But the success of La Cage and Priscilla seems to be proving them wrong. I've been watching the audiences who come to see my play, which deals with a gay witch-hunt in the 1950s, and these audiences are just as varied. I'm not sure of the significance, but it is a fact."

But Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay, lesbian and bisexual campaign group Stonewall, said: "The fact that there are seven or eight major productions with gay themes or characters is probably nothing more than an unlikely alignment of the platforms. I would be surprised if there were the same number this time next year."

Plague over England

Nicholas de Jongh, Duchess Theatre

Premiered at the Finborough Theatre last year; run ends 2 May

Cast highlights: Michael Feast knew Gielgud personally, while Celia Imrie shines as Dame Sybil Thorndike.

Synopsis: Critic-turned-writer de Jongh re-creates 1950s bohemian London in this story of John Gielgud's 1953 arrest in a public lavatory for "importuning men for immoral purposes".

The Backroom

Adrian Pagan, Cock Tavern Theatre; Ends 2 May

Cast highlights: Neil Cunningham and Will Stokes

Synopsis: Rivalry erupts among the sex workers in a gay brothel in Earls Court as the new boy quickly becomes a favourite.

Zanna, Don't!

Tim Acito, Space; Runs 5-9 May, then 9 June-5 July Upstairs at the Gatehouse in north London

Cast highlights: Mike Shearer leads; Michael Cotton, Kate Malyon and Michael Stacey follow

Synopsis: A comic parody in which a musical matchmaker and friends in a fantasy homosexual world are rocked by a clandestine heterosexual relationship.

La Cage aux Folles

Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman, Playhouse Theatre; Has been at the Playhouse since 20 October

Cast highlights: Graham Norton and Steven Pacey are set to be replaced by Roger Allam and Philip Quast from 4 May.

Synopsis: Farcical sexual identity adventure surrounds lovers Georges and Albin when Georges' son announces his engagement to the daughter of an ultra-conservative local politician.

Fucking Men

Joe DiPietro, King's Head, Islington; Run extended until 6 June

Cast highlights: Stephen Billington and Matthew Clancy

Synopsis: A series of 10 sexual encounters, flowing from the initial fumblings of a soldier and a male prostitute, highlighting varying attitudes towards sex and love in the gay community.

Three Days of Rain

Richard Greenberg, Apollo Theatre; Running from 30 January to 2 May

Cast highlights: James McAvoy, Nigel Harman and Lyndsey Marshal glow through the downpour.

Synopsis: A brother and sister meet a friend to discover the dynamics behind the relationship between their fathers in the same flat a generation previously.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Stephen Elliott and Allan Scott, Palace Theatre; In London since 23 March 23

Cast highlights: Jason Donovan takes the lead (giving a fresh angle to the many Kylie references throughout), alongside Tony Sheldon and Oliver Thornton.

Synopsis: Two drag queens and a transsexual embark on the campest of road trips through the Australian outback.


John Stanley, Above the Stag Theatre; On a four-week run since 14 April

Cast highlights: Jay Brown and Nic Gilder

Synopsis: A gay boxer attempts to spend his 18th birthday party with his family, his significantly senior lover and his homophobic trainer.

Entertaining Mr Sloane

Joe Orton, Trafalgar Studios; Ran from 29 January to 11 April

Cast highlights: Mathew Horne's star was nearly outshone by the brilliant Imelda Staunton, though audiences were entertained equally by Simon Paisley Day.

Synopsis: Bisexual blackmail and brutal violence as a brother and sister entrap a handsome con man and murderer.


Alan Bennett, Gielgud Theatre; Running from 2 February until 16 May

Cast highlights: Alison Steadman and David Troughton star in a rarely performed gem.

Synopsis: This early work by Bennett is replete with voyeurism, casual violence, gender-swapping, inferred incest and rampant sexual comedy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn