Gay play nominated for Fringe theatre award

Gemma Pritchard August 20, 2007
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A play about the 1969 Stonewall riots has been nominated for a prestigious award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The cast of Rikki Beadle-Blair’s play Stonewall has been nominated in the Best Ensemble category of The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence.

Now in their 13th year, The Stage Awards are the only honours for professional theatre presented by a national UK publication at the Fringe.

They include categories for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Ensemble and Best Solo Performer.

Nominations are chosen by the newspaper’s review team who view hundreds of productions before making their choice.

Stage editor Brian Attwood, who will present the awards, told “There’s a substantial number of prizes to be won at Edinburgh but few match The Stage’s for credibility.

“All nominees were chosen by our highly experienced team of critics, who between them have seen nearly 350 of the best Fringe shows this year alone. Anyone who makes their shortlist is pretty special.”

Stage Edinburgh team head Jeremy Austin said: “In what has turned out to be a very strong year for drama, there has been deliberation and debate even at the shortlist stage.

“Particularly encouraging is the mixture of performers in the best solo category, now in its second year, and the inclusion of shows from outside the ‘big guns’ such as The Zoo and C.

“We are all looking forward to an inspiring and challenging week of judging.”

Beadle-Blair’s play focuses on the Stonewall riots, a series of violent conflicts at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village between New York City police officers and groups of gay and transgender people that began during the early morning of June 28, 1969, and lasted several days.

The riots are viewed as a turning point for the worldwide gay rights movement, as gay and transgender people had never before acted together in such large numbers to forcibly resist police.

The play, which is staged at Pleasance Court, has greatly impressed reviewers.

According to The Stage’s review of the production, “Rikki Beadle-Blair’s play celebrates the myth of Stonewall in a way that is true in spirit if fictional in plot, and that provides one of the most thoroughly entertaining dirty pleasures of the festival.

“Set in a magical version of history in which the entire cast is covered head to toe in glitter, the play follows newcomer to New York Matty Dean, who falls for La Mirada, one of the drag queens who frequent the Stonewall.”

The play examines a cross-section of the 1969 gay world, and celebrates the “spirit of liberation by interrupting the action at regular intervals with lip-synched musical numbers set to the recordings of girl groups of the period.”

Mr Beadle-Blair, who adapted the play from his 1996 screenplay of the same name, told Scottish magazine The List: “The perception is that gay rights have moved forward but it’s not far enough.

“Societal attitudes are obscured as gay people can walk down two streets in every capital holding hands without being beaten up, however gay teens are three times more likely to commit suicide and to kids (and a certain radio DJ) ‘gay’ is another word for ‘lame’.”

The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence were founded by the publication in 1995 to celebrate the best performances in theatre-based productions each year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The judging panel consists of the principal reviewers for The Stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Jeremy Austin, Gerald Berkowitz, Thom Dibdin, Duska Radosavljevic, Nick Awde and William McEvoy.

The winners will be announced at an invitation-only ceremony at the Cafe Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh, on the evening of Sunday, August 26.

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