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The Madness of Lady Bright Q&A with Michael-Alan Read

Cardboard Fox have an exciting theatre double-bill at boutique performance space Rose & Grants Cafe, on Trongate, for Glasgay! 2014. Creator Michael-Alan Read talks us through these intriguing plays and how they find into this year’s theme of taboos.

Tell us a little about The Madness of Lady Bright?

The play is in its 50th anniversary year having been written in 1964 by Lanford Wilson. The play was first produced at Joe’s Cafe Chino in Greenwich Village in New York City and is considered by some to be one of the forerunners of the “gay play” movement that began in the very young years of the off off Broadway scene. Pre-dating Matt Crowley’s Boys in the Band, The play acts as one of the first pieces of dramatic literature that portrayed homosexuality as something that was matter of fact. Although sensational, Bright is affected by aspects of homosexuality that gay men still struggle with today.It portrays acceptance, physicality, and morality, while at the same time linking it to the human condition that we all deal with as opposed to the “sickness” that people felt homosexuality sprang from at the time of its writing.Where did the inspiration for come from?

Where did the inspiration for Mr & Mrs. Laughton come from?

Mr. & Mrs. Laughton is a labour of love. Having first been made aware of the actor while working at Studio 54 (as front of house, long after its heyday as the club of note). Patrons would come up to me and ask me if I knew who I looked like. This lead to a lot of research on Charles and then eventually his wife, the amazing Elsa Lanchester. Doing all of this reading while closeted in a five year relationship with my own version of Elsa, I was overpowered with the similarities between the Charles and I, and when I came out, I began to write the show. I used my own experiences to flesh out the dynamic of these two individuals that, although knowing full well of their situation, continued to stay in it for thirty-three years.

In what ways do the two shows complement each other?

The two shows are both memory plays. They use similar conventions that allow theatre makers to tell a story that can break the rules of time. In “Lady Bright” we see various characters that have effected Leslie throughout her life with the use of the Boy and Girl, who act as phantoms echoing her past lovers, her family, friends and, at some points, her tormentors. “Mr. & Mrs” uses a pivotal event of Charles playing King Lear at the RSC in 1959 as a window into He and Elsa’s dynamic. Using that point as the fulcrum, Elsa ebbs and flows out of her memories of Charles in a sort of carousel that gives us passing glimpses of their work as actors, and as spouses.

Which taboos are explored in these pieces?

The primary taboo that seems to arch between the two works is self-loathing. While perhaps not often thought of as a taboo, in an age of equality and pride, it is highly controversial to be a homosexual who doesn’t embrace who they are. Even at 26, when I came out, I met several men who considered me “damaged goods.” Yet it is a very real thing for many gay individuals who have issues finding their footing in today’s world of instant app induced sex and tribes that label you more animal than man. It’s interesting that the plays indicative of the times they occupy. Charles’ self loathing in a closeted 1930’s manifests itself very differently than Leslie’s in a very out New York City thirty years later.

What other Glasgay! Festival events are you looking forward to?

I am very much looking forward to seeing Josh Armstrong’s These Delicate Things. I am a big supporter of Cryptic‘s work and The Astrid String Quartet. Combining them both into a piece about the fascinating and unfortunately short life of Francesca Woodman will make for an amazing evening.

Catch Michael-Alan Read performing in Cardboard Fox’s theatrical double-bill of The Madness of Lady Bright and Mr & Mrs. Laughton WED 29 OCT – SAT 1 NOV, 7:30pm (doors open at 7pm) at Rose & Grants. Tickets are a bargain at £8 including a glass of wine/soft drink – book online now

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