Photo: Lee Baxter
Great Indecencies is a new play commissioned by IAP:MCR from Joshua Val Martin - an associate artist of the company that draws on the experience and testimony of people who participated in the project. In describing his approach to the project Joshua says...
Writing this play begins with two people in a room
A couple who have probably never before met
One of them older, one of them younger, sat around a recorder –
With potentially little more in common than their sexual identities
At some point, the younger stranger is likely to ask something along the lines of –
What was it like to come of age as homosexuality began to be decriminalised?
There’s probably a wary glance thrown in the direction of the recorder –
After all, this is the version of events that is to last forever.
The young interviewer wonders if they’ll hear the much-told story of ‘outlaws to in-laws’
Or a misty-eyed account of how things were better back then.
The interviewee tentatively begins to tell the story they think is wanted of them –
Before giving in to trust
They’re asked questions, then again, then perhaps in a slightly different way -
Until the pair collaborate to create testimonies that haven’t seen daylight for decades
…this process is repeated many times, across the North-West
Now, at this point, I’d fancied writing a musical
Then I listened to all the testimonies. I listened to them again.
I felt a deep responsibility, having been entrusted with these life stories,
To tell the truth
Knowing that they must inform what the play is to become (and so the musical was shelved)
I began by identifying common themes
Many of which are impossible to ignore –
Pervasive stories of homophobia and trauma
It was important to me that every plot point, twist and turn-of-phrase in the play
Had been taken from one of the real memories shared with us
But then, if we were to simply reconfigure the testimonies,
Why not make a LGBT+ documentary or verbatim play
(which there are already plenty)
Or redirect the audience to the archives?
We wanted to reflect the stories back,
And reveal the details a listener can more readily see.
To celebrate the messy, shocking, sexy stories
Told by our criminals,
who were driven in different directions,
by their pursuit of love
‘Something lasts longer the more you talk about it’ is our mantra
This play had been written many times and years before I arrived:
It had just been waiting to be told.
The play was first performed at The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre in Manchester on 30 March 2023. The cast and creative team were:
Leonard - Jamie Newall
Rye - Joe Shipman
Freddie - Jordan Rising
Stage Manager - James Darnton
Intern - Rosheen O’Hanlon
Intern - A B Bradnack
Director - Sue Dunderdale
Designer - Jez Dolan
Sound Designer - Dan Steele
Lighting Designer - David Martin
Photo: Lee Baxter