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.

Proud

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.

Enjoy

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
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick