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Theatre group put Iris Robinson’s ‘gay cure’ outburst to artistic use

Tony Grew November 10, 2008

A highly-acclaimed play at the National Theatre has incorporated a recording of a leading Northern Irish MP claiming gay people can be cured.

DV8’s To Be Straight With You is “a poetic but unflinching exploration of tolerance, intolerance, religion and sexuality.”

The Times said: “The show is episodic and didactic around the edges, but (director) Lloyd Newson and his designers have beautiful surprises up their sleeves.

“A lecturer appears to stand inside the globe as he indicates countries where homosexuality equals the death penalty.

“A gay Nigerian Christian explains that he has led not just two but maybe four lives, all of them quickly illustrated via digitised full-body comic strip panels.

“But it is human feelings and political themes — fear, courage, hatred, injustice, invisibility, compromise — that matter the most here.”

It is based on hundreds of hours of audio interviews collected throughout the UK and incorporates dance, text, documentary, animation and film.

Iris Robinson was named as Bigot of the Year at last week’s Stonewall Awards.

She has refused to withdraw comments that homosexuality is an abomination and gay people can be “cured” by therapy.

Mrs Robinson, the MP and MLA for Strangford and chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly health committee, has been at the centre of controversy since June, when she said in a radio interview about a homophobic assault that the victim could be “cured” of his homosexuality.

She cited the work of her adviser, psychiatrist Dr Paul Miller, as an example.

She said: “I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.

“I am happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around to become heterosexual.”

A loop of a recording of this now infamous radio interview is used throughout DV8’s show.

Judy Lisey, spokeswoman for theatre company DV8, told the Belfast Telegraph:

“Mrs Robinson’s words are featured verbatim in the production and fit in with the other testaments being played on homophobia.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response by theatre-goers to the exploration of the themes of oppression in the play and we are planning to bring it to Belfast next year.”

Mrs Robinson caused further uproar in July, when it emerged that during committee proceedings in the Commons last month, she told MPs:

“There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

In July she claimed she is the victim of an anti-Christian witchunt, and later clarified her stance.

“Over the past few weeks, some people have attempted to suggest that I indicated that homosexuality is a mental-health issue, and they have twisted everything that was said on Stephen Nolan’s radio show,” she said in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“I have got broad shoulders, and can take the brickbats that followed from that. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Homosexuality, like all sin, is an abomination.”

The Bigot of the Year award was voted for by Stonewall supporters and she won “overwhelmingly,” according to a Stonewall spokesperson.

The awards ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London was attended by celebrities from the worlds of music, politics and the arts.

Gene Robinson, the only out gay bishop in the Anglican communion, was voted Hero of the Year.

He said in his acceptance speech:

“I have tried to bring God’s voice to the struggle we are all in. God’s voice has been abused in the name of hatred and bigotry for far too long and it is time we took Scripture and the Church back from those that would use it to hurt us.

“The Church is different from God, you do not need me to tell you that, the Church often gets it wrong, but God never does.

“We learnt that with using Scripture to justify slavery, we learned it when Scripture was used to subjugate and denigrate women, and now we will learn that we also got it wrong about LGBT people.”

More: London, Northern Ireland

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