The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival is now in its fourteenth year and has become the biggest festival of its kind anywhere in the world. The festival was originally founded by Brian Merriman in 2004 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Oscar Wilde. Since then, the festival has grown to become a hugely important part of Dublin’s cultural calendar and this year the festival will pass its 4,000th performance, with plays on diverse subjects such as being a gay Traveller boxing champion, lesbian gangsters in East End London, and Mormon missionaries.
The plays were carefully curated from over 100 submissions from every corner of the globe. Five venues across Dublin city will become home to the best international gay theatre the world has to offer, providing a unique opportunity to see LGBT culture presented by theatre companies from Ireland, the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Mexico & Scotland.
The festival was launched by Senator David Norris and actor Mark O’Halloran and was attended by the Ambassadors of Chile, Norway and the US charge d’affaires. Speaking at the launch, Public Relations Director Conor Molloy said: “Given the political and media landscape we have endured over the last 12 months, it is important to provide a platform for minority communities to present new voices and quality theatre, now more than ever. The theatre has historically been used to speak out about injustice, to challenge convention and to push boundaries. Theatre, like all art, has the power to change the world. But to do that, we must be able to speak out about our shared ideas, dreams, hopes, fears, and experiences. Our festival provides a safe space to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to do so and we appreciate the fact that Dublin has opened its heart to such artistic expression.”
Senator David Norris, a lifelong LGBT activist, added: “Heartiest congratulations to Brian Merriman in once again bringing a vital and important theatre festival to Ireland. The Dublin Gay Theatre Festival reaches out beyond the gay community to the general public. I wish it every success.”
The festival takes place over two weeks from 1 – 14 May, with a different programme, filled with outstanding Irish and international talent, each week. The first week sees the hit off-Broadway show Confessions of a Mormon Boy come to the Teacher’s Club. This true story, written by Steven Fales, charts his journey from being the perfect Mormon boy in Utah to being the perfect rent boy in New York and how he eventually found the middle ground. Also at the Teacher’s Club that week is An Unexpected Party, Irish playwright Simon Murphy’s story of a group of people meeting one year on from the death of their friend Niall.
In the Pearse Centre, Wasting Paper, written by Leah Moore, tells the story of an 18-year-old poet who went viral on the internet over the summer holidays but has to deal with even more crazy goings on once she returns to school. In the Outhouse, there are two terrific shows from international companies. Naked Soldier tells the story of Alwin as he comes to terms with his gay desires in 1960s and 70s Austria while Bleach is a soul-jolting one man show about sex, violence and city living that is laced with crippling honesty and dark wit.
The second week marks the first time for a show from Mexico to be performed at the festival. Joto! Confessions of a Mexican Outcast, written by Carlos Manuel, is a one man comedy that explores what it means to be a gay, undocumented Latino living in the United States. This show is on at the Outhouse, which also hosts The Elephant Girls, which is based on the true story of South-East London’s notorious all-female gang.
In the Player’s Theatre, Gypsy Queen, written by Rob Ward, tells the story of a bare knuckle fighter who leaves his Traveller roots to become a professional boxer. This leads to him discovering more about himself than he ever knew when he enters into a relationship with his coach’s openly gay son.
The festival will close with the Gala Awards Night in the Teacher’s Club on Sunday, 14 May. Here the acts that have entertained and enthralled over the previous two weeks will be honoured, with awards handed out in the names of Oscar Wilde, Micheál MacLiammóir, Eva Gore-Booth, Hilton Edwards, Doc Wilson, Sean Meehan and Patrick Murray.
Two years ago, Ireland made history by becoming the first country to legalise gay marriage by popular vote. The country continues to lead the way in embracing LGBT people thanks to the work of fantastic festivals such as the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival and the organisers are keen for that to continue, stressing that this festival is not just for the gay community but for everyone. As founder Brian Merriman said at this year’s launch: “This is our fourteenth year staging new and diverse theatre, welcoming artists and audiences regardless of their sexual identity. Everyone is welcome in this unique festival of theatre.”
With an amazing line-up of new shows that cover a broad spectrum of topics, there really is something for everyone to enjoy in this most inclusive of festivals.