THE GLASGAY! festival, Scotland’s annual celebration of LGBT culture, is 20 years old this autumn; but still, there’s no sign of an end to the battle for full acceptance of gay people and their relationships.
Like Rob Drummond’s short play Healing Waters, last month, Stef Smith’s new play for Glasgay! is set partly in a “cure clinic”, a place where gay men and women can go to be stripped – or so it’s claimed – of their unwanted same-sex desires; and the fact that these places represent something of a boom industry, particularly in the United States, shows how much anti-gay prejudice still persists, even among those who are gay themselves.
Smith’s light-touch, upbeat one-hour drama follows its central character Susan -– a gay woman approaching her 40th birthday – through a series of encounters with three other women, all played with a wicked humorous flair by Mary Gapinski. There’s her cantankerous old mother, an obsessive fan of the Golden Girls television series. There’s her new lover Lisa, exasperated by her reluctance to define herself as gay; and there’s the spooky “ex-gay” receptionist in the “cure clinic” Susan once attended in despair, after the failure of her first gay relationship.
The point about Susan’s story is that she finds the strength and common sense to walk out of the clinic, and to build a new life in which her mother gradually begins to accept her sexuality. Smith’s storyline contains a late, complicated time-twist that barely works. Yet Rosalind Phillips’s fluent, witty production features a lovely central performance by Julie Hale as Susan; and a true feeling for the sweetness and value of love, wherever we find it, and whatever obstacles society puts in its path.