Published by Bruno Gmunder
Reviewed by Paul Kane
The elephant in the room with regard to books of this type - essentially, homoerotic art, collections of pictures or photos - is that their primary purpose is to provide stimuli for wanking, to be 'the stuff of one-handed reading', as Clive Barker euphemistically puts it in his preface here. So let's take this as read and say further that, if your taste runs to rugged handsome men, Beaumen will most likely push all the right buttons for you. Is there anything else to say? Besides, that is, to make the idle boast that my imagined elephant is bigger, much bigger, than yours could ever be?
Well, there is the point that art, and even the greatest art, has always had an ulterior purpose or function. Consider, say, the role of the church as a patron of the arts during the Renaissance. Or consider the way in which Andrea del Castagno obtained his nickname. In Florence, artists of note were often asked to paint descriptions of murderers on the walls of buildings. Del Castagno's efforts led to so many arrests and subsequent executions that he became known as Andrea degli Impiccati; that is, Andrea of the Hanged.
And nor should one confuse purpose or motive with merit, as even Tom of Finland did when he said, 'Yes, I consider my work pornography... my motive is lower than art.' There are plenty of dud Madonnas and kitsch Jesuses, after all, whereas Tom's work - admired by Warhol, Mapplethorpe and John Waters - has sold at Christies, been much exhibited and is now pretty much iconic.
Now we come to the book under review. Beaumen contains myriad paintings by the artist known as Beau, an artist of fine gifts. The paintings have an elegant composition and much thought, too, has gone into painting the perspective from which the scene depicted is viewed. There is a narrative to some, which makes one think we are viewing them out of context: a geeky guy peeking at a handsome hunk as he soaps and showers, a pretty boy actor stripping for a Hollywood agent, the odd S/M scene. Perhaps these were originally used to accompany a story. Other paintings are portraits of lone figures: a cowboy, a hustler, a few sailors (which reminds one that the well-respected artist Charles Demuth, too, did quite a few dodgy pictures of sailors). The overall feel is hedonistic, warm, uninhibited; in a word, pagan. There's realistic detail and gritty atmosphere and the colour has a kind of glinty vibrancy, perhaps because originally these were all works ofoil on paper.
Look at the paintings in Beaumen, do, but please try not to touch. We are not in a zoo here. Imagined elephants aside, that is...Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. Hewelcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at email@example.com
Review: The Dying Gaul and Other Screenplays by Craig Lucas
The Dying Gaul and Other Screenplays
Published by Alyson
Reviewed by Garth Green
I was excited when I first flicked through this book and saw the names of great films by Norman Rene, Alan Rudolph and Craig Lucas himself. On the cover is a gorgeous still from Lucas’s own directed The Dying Gaul (2005); the book’s medium - format design is compact yet classy and easily manageable. I read through it all in one sitting.
Campbell Scott’s short Foreword unfolds in sparklingly clear prose as he defines the essence of great screenplays, based on well chosen words to resemble the “ ropes in a suspension bridge”. He suggests that this is a great art which Lucas has and that his words are arranged like “great pieces of music”. Scott’s mini essays on the three screenplays in the volume, even though just a paragraph apiece manage to convey the most trenchant analysis.
There is also an interview with Lucas conducted by the book’s editor, Steven Drukman. Drukman also replays the analysis of the three chosen screenplays and places them into political, social and movie context, or what he calls “movie-land”. One gets the feeling that Drukman feels “movie-land” has replaced “wonderland” and allows Lucas to define his own roles between scriptwriting, movie directing and stage directing.
But at times reading the book is a bumpy ride, due to it’s screenplay formatting. As a university lecturer I am used to reading plays in play format, but I found reading the screenplay script with its various abbreviations and scene changes a bit heavy going and had to learn a new “ language “ as it were, in order to appreciate them. One other quibble which I have with the editing of the screenplays is the appending of the film’s cast lists and stills from the movies - why only stills from two of the three films ? - and why not full production lists of the films, noting all the details, such as the years that they were produced and released ? As the films are the finished products of the screenplay production, surely an important and essential aspect of this type of book ?
It’s a pleasure to see the female perspective on the screenplays and on Lucas’s work through the commentary of Mary-Louise Parker, who starred in Longtime Companion. She describes Lucas “ like some giant sea creature, all tentacles and neon suctions that trap and filter any conversation … “ and a writer who writes “ for people who will bother to listen; his is not a passive theater “.
While reading the book, I have borne in mind the very great pleasure that cine lovers derive from Lucas’s work and have tried to answer in my own mind why he has such popular appeal. Given that the world which he portrays for the spectator is so emotionally violent in its passive aggression, it would be quite possible to find his films both repetitive and alienating. Such is not the case, however, as his huge “ listening” audiences make clear. I may suggest that, while his narrative closure is often one of death, nonetheless the overriding message taken from his films is that there is hope. Robert Sandrich, a character in The Dying Gaul can be taken as a representative for many of the major characters in his scripts, and Lucas describes him as “ pushing all the rage down deep within, not allowing it any vent “ and yet by the end of the script we are told “ the process therefore consists in becoming what you are.” Hope comes in the form of creative choice for the protagonists even though it entails for nearly all a fatal ending. The point is, though, that each character chooses their end, working from deep rage, and that choice takes the form of a direct challenge and/or resistance to the major institutions that govern us - in particular the society of technology and surveillance, the society of consumption, the institutionally sanctioned notion of the family, and not least the society of new age religion with its therapies and new dysfunctional paradigms. Lucas amusingly ends The Secret Lives of Dentists with an image which shows us clearly this choice in operation: Dave, the dentist tells us in a voice over that “ Teeth. I am still struck by the mystery …” and we are told “ He continues probing.” Garth Vernon Green was born and raised in Africa. He trained as a gestalt psychotherapist and is a university lecturer in comparative literature. He lives in Sweden.
Theatre Review: The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley
The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley
Written and Performed by Chris GoodeContact Theatre
Reviewed by Paul Kane
Without a doubt, this was the most beautiful and interesting play to be performed at the Queer Up North
festival; already, perhaps, it should be regarded as a classic. Let’s go through a few reasons why it was overall so fine and copacetic.
First key point to make: it has an awful lot of charm. The set, Shirley’s bedroom, vividly evokes the mid to late ‘70s: Bowie’s Aladdin Sane poster on the wall and the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK poster too. (I’d query whether they have the correct Spider Man poster on the wall, mind: wasn’t that an Ultimate Spider Man poster I espied?) Adam Smith’s opening animation is involving and fun, elegant and expressive both. Then there is Chris Goode’s virtuoso performance.
Goode plays all the parts: the storyteller/narrator; Wound Man, a superhero whose special power is to contain, and therefore take away, others’ pain; Shirley, a teenage boy still mourning for his dead brother and struggling to come to terms with his sexuality; Reg Parsley, an ideal exemplar (or should that be an Exemplar Ideal?) of the Daily Mail’s target readership; and quite a few other characters too. Throughout, Goode is engaging and amiable, his humour often silly and outrageous.
The, it has to be said very English, charm of Goode’s piece allows him to get away with delivering a message that people may not want or like to hear: that a relationship between a teenage boy and an older man may be warm, affectionate, respectful and good for both. This is not an especially complex message, but it is maybe a transgressive one, in our paedophile-paranoid times. And that Goode should use the superhero/sidekick template to sweeten this truth will likely have old Doc. Wertham turning in his grave.
The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley is absolutely enchanting, a Pythonesque brew of Kes and Dennis Cooper, with perhaps just a smidgeon of Hellraiser too. It is the best piece of British Theatre since the Katie Mitchell and the NT’s Waves.Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. Hewelcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Labels: Theatre Review
Review: The Gay Divorcee
The Gay Divorcee
Reviewed by Liam Tullberg
The Gay Divorcee is Paul Burston’s fifth novel and explores themes of family, belonging and identity.
Successful bar owner and manager Phil Davies is looking forward to his civil partnership to the ever-pouting, rarely satisfied, substantially younger Ashley Grimshaw. All appears well as the big day looms ever closer, but of course, in fiction as in life, nothing ever runs smoothly, and the problem here is that Phil’s kept a rather large secret from his soon to be husband: that he was once – and technically still is - married to a woman, Hazel. And he has a nineteen year old son he’s never met and who’s closer to home than Phil can imagine. Talk about Jeremy Kyle...
The Gay Divorcee is a thoroughly entertaining read with excellent dialogue and empathetic, well-rounded characters that Burston weights appropriately. As in Armistead Maupin’s legendary Tales of the City series, the narrative alternates points of view from chapter to chapter. From Hazel’s dealing with the recent death of her long term partner, to Carl - Phil’s best mate - looking for love in the gay scene he’s long given up on, each subplot is engaging and supportive of the main conflicts of the novel. The ‘Bitchy Queen’ blog that is mysteriously created by one of the characters is particularly well dealt with, poking an acid tongue at the gay scene and drawing Burston’s attention to its shallow, inconsequential depths.
What works exceptionally well is Burston’s drawing a contrast between the London that has become home to Phil, and Bridgend, representative of the Welsh life that he long left behind. While Phil is living a hectic and seemingly fulfilled life in Soho, Hazel is at home in Wales with her mother, but refusing to be bitter towards him for the life with which he has left her. It is through this juxtaposition that Burston successfully explores the premise that family is found where it is sought, rather than being something you are born into.
Burston’s language and use of prose is confident and substantial. For example, it’s as easy for readers to visualise Phil’s bar in which regulars gather around the coveted ‘Table One’ to flick and bitch through copies of Boyz as it is to get inside the minds of the central characters.
Perhaps the only weakness of The Gay Divorcee is in the character of Ashley. Though it’s clear that this is a character to whom there are little more than two dimensions, it is rather hard to believe exactly what Phil finds attractive in him beyond the wonder of Wonderjocks. He behaves so unpleasantly throughout the novel that it’s almost as if an explanation, not an excuse, is needed for his actions. But perhaps this omission is reflective of a belief that some people simply look out for themselves, rather than anyone around them, as Ashley’s one-way friendship with Rik demonstrates through the novel.
The Gay Divorcee is a cutting and contemporary look at gay life, whether through the eyes of a gay man with a wife or a wife with a gay husband. It’s a must for anyone who’s been on the gay scene and met the many characters that Paul Burston has successfully brought to life.