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.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
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.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...