EMMA CHEUNG explores the concealment of queer identity in Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith and Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden. The lesbian narrative of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith revolves around duplicity and entrapment. Beautifully reimagined for the screen in The Handmaiden, both works present a captivating portrayal of the way disguise forces itself upon queer identity. The role of clothing in Fingersmith is at the forefront of the reader’s mind. With dishonest intentions, the characters mould artificial identities through changes in dress in order to control the way in which the world perceives them. But within this method there is a potential sacrifice of the self. Does a disguise leave space for the existence of a true self beneath? At what point does external perception become self-perception? The dizzying web of betrayal and fraudulence in Fingersmith plays with these questions, continuously drawing upon the crisis of identity that can plague the queer experience. The…Continue Reading

‘My strait gown cuts me’

ALEX RUSSELL looks at the darker side of Grindr. Grindr has allowed members of the gay community to connect in ways that had never before been possible. It might still be difficult for them to express their sexuality to friends, family or the general public, but gay men have reached out to each other in this virtual space. Yet many of the ugly realities of Grindr and similar dating apps remain obscured: they introduce a whole new dimension of problems that can be encountered when interacting with others. One of the most damaging aspects of this app is its generation of an unhealthy vicious cycle of instant gratification. With Grindr, sex has never been so easy obtainable. A hook-up, sex or even date can be literally 5 feet away. While this is certainly used (or abused) by some, it creates a cycle where you become stuck in constantly deleting and…Continue Reading

Grindr: Beware

ISABEL WEBB discusses sex education after UCL Leading Women tackled the subject in collaboration with Men’s Rugby. Ask anyone what their experience of sex education was like in school and they will probably mention a traumatising demonstration of what happens to a tampon in water and a very rogue use of a banana. Fruit was always a common theme in sex education; first came the banana, then the condoms on cucumbers, and then the school nurse attempted to incorporate a pear into her description of fallopian tubes. The use of fruit seems to perfectly encapsulate the innuendo-laden inaccuracy of most sex education in schools, as well as Britain’s deep rooted discomfort with directly talking about sex. Clearly, using actual scientific models to explain bodily functions to children would be too much to ask. It’s no secret – and no surprise – that most people’s attitude to sex is a heady cocktail…Continue Reading

Sex beyond bananas

FINN BURGE reviews Tea Break Theatre’s Dracula. Through the topos of an after-dark tour of the historic Sutton House, with (for the purposes of full disclosure) a generous supply of complimentary Prosecco provided before the show proper, the audience slides seamlessly into the story of Dracula, ingeniously blurring the real and the theatrical. Tea Break Theatre cunningly integrates this site-specific piece of promenade not only into the house itself, but the mechanics of the setup as an historical attraction, where audience and actors move in and out of each other’s space fluidly. Writer-director Katharine Armitage perspicaciously updates Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror behemoth to the modern day – Lucy Westenra and Sir Arthur Holmwood (Jennifer Tyler and Jeff Scott respectively) become plummy Ascot types, Van Helsing (Jon-Paul Rowden) is an internet conspiracy theorist. There’s also something deliciously tongue-in-cheek about how Dracula’s insane acolyte Renfield (with a fantastically creepy performance by Louise…Continue Reading

Dracula

Sophie Nevrkla interviews openly gay priest, Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, about institutional homophobia in the Church of England. In ‘Felix Randal’, the great Victorian poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins wrestles with his Christianity and his sexuality, as he lays a handsome local farrier to rest. His religious and sexual identities seem diametrically opposed: the sonnet lurches in opposite directions. His faith demands composure, but his admiration of Randal’s physical form threatens to burst forth from beneath this dispassionate surface into a full-blown declaration of his sexuality: ‘Felix Randal the farrier, O is he dead then? my duty all ended, Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it, and some Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?’ As Hopkins struggles to contain his feelings within their carefully crafted spiritual box, his devout Jesuit priesthood acts as the lid upon his self-expression.…Continue Reading

Monopoly on Moral Thought

Thomas Cury investigates the queer potential of the voice. Although inherently not a gendered object, the voice always seems to be prescribed as one— the whispery falsetto employed by many pop stars of now and yesteryear is often labelled as ‘feminine’, acting as a counterpoint to their masculinity. Joan Armatrading’s trademark contralto, for instance, is often described as having a manly quality. However, in the case of Victoria Legrand’s fluctuating vocal tone or Karin Drejer Anderssen’s uncagetorizable vocal style, this assumption of a naturalised relationship between pitch and gender becomes doubtful. In the dialogue between vocalist and the listener, the voice is given its physical location in both bodies while also existing on its own. In this sense, the voice becomes what Freya Jarman calls a ‘slippery beast’: by being inherently difficult to categorise, it is already charged with queer potential. Frank Ocean’s ‘Nikes’ explores the voice’s potential for queerness. The song begins…Continue Reading

A Slippery Beast

TESS LOWERY reviews Rotterdam at the Arts Theatre. ‘No, Alice, I don’t want to become a man, I just want to stop trying to be a woman.’ It’s New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands and the neurotic Alice (Alice McCarthy) has finished the tenth spellcheck of her ‘coming out’ email to her parents back home. As her hand hovers above the send button, her partner Fiona (Anna Martine) suddenly makes a staggering revelation: he has always identified as a man, would like to live as one and will henceforth be known as Adrian. Their task now is to reconcile their gender and sexual identities with their feelings for each other. Is Alice still gay? Does this mean Adrian is straight? Such is the byzantine premise of Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam. Yet the world we live in and the relationships we have are in fact that complex. This convoluted play is a refreshing reminder that…Continue Reading

Rotterdam

JESS HOWLEY-WELLS reviews Lonely Planet at the Tabard Theatre In his foreword to Lonely Planet, premiering in the UK at the Tabard Theatre this June, playwright Steven Dietz stated this: ‘In a chaotic world, friendship is the most elegant, the most lasting way to be useful. We are, each of us, a living testament to our friends’ compassion and tolerance, humour and wisdom, patience and grit. Friendship, not technology, is the only thing capable of showing us the enormity of the world.’ In this play, we see two men and the ways in which their love for each other guides them through a period of desolation and loss. It is the love of friendship; in this play platonic love is paramount, as it is the love that endures the most hardship. Set in 1980s America, it is clear that modern technology and the accompanying perpetual tidal-wave of information and communication has…Continue Reading

Lonely Planet

MATTHEW WAGAINE discusses the interaction between ethnic and queer identity, and what increased corporate sponsorship at Pride parades means for QTIPoC. Within popular culture, blonde hair is synonymous with a standard of beauty to which we are all supposed to aspire. For non-white performing artists, dying one’s hair blonde is often a sign of divorcing themselves from their ethnic roots in an attempt by the record label to appeal to a mass audience. For instance, Shakira, one of the world’s most popular artists to come from the Latin American scene, made her big international breakthrough in 2002 with her hit, ‘Whenever, Wherever’. The accompanying music video showcases the performer shaking her famous hips with long, curly locks of cool blonde hair. But whilst her hips weren’t lying, what most of her international fans do not know is that in the years prior to her Anglophone debut, she donned jet black hair. Shakira’s new blonde…Continue Reading

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Queer

LEAH AARON considers the representation of queer women over the past two decades of television and cinema. I was fifteen when I first watched Queer as Folk. I would’ve been four when it was first broadcast (in 1999), but I’d read somewhere that it was about gays and Manchester – two things which interested me enormously at the time – so I streamed it on Megavideo. The Channel 4 series was Russell T. Davies at his brightest and best: it centred around Stuart, Vince and Nathan, in a fraught and emotionally manipulative love triangle. The first episode sees Nathan (who is fifteen!) sneak out to town, get picked up (by Stuart) and rimmed in a trendy warehouse loft, all in the first five minutes. Later episodes involve arson, attempted blackmail and an endless stream of casual sex. Everyone was cultured, complex, morally ambivalent and always on the prowl. I was…Continue Reading

The Hesitancy of Queer Cinema