Posts Tagged ‘Bette Bourne’

Review – A Life in Three Acts – Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill at the Soho Theatre

February 11, 2010

A Life in Three Acts is actually a very odd show. I was there because I’d seen an offer in the Standard for £5 tickets; I knew almost nothing about Bette Bourne (“Bloolips” rang a little bell but I couldn’t contextualize it, like “Greek Active” might to a non-Seattlite). Reading the blurb intrigued me: drag queen extraordinaire and major figure in the early English gay rights movement? I knew almost nothing about that era other than what I’d seen in movies, and, well, I’ve been hanging out with drag queens since I was 15, so I was pleased to take up the offer and truck on over to Soho.

The format for this show is as follows: Mark Ravenhill and Bette Bourne sit on a stage, as if they were in Bette’s apartment, and chat, chronologically, about Bette’s life, recreating Mark’s original interviews at Bette’s home (which have been edited down to what we hear). Behind the stage, photos and occasionally movies are displayed (and at one point we even hear an old recording Mom Bourne made of herself singing “Ave Maria” while on an outing in central London). Mark and Bette mostly read from scripts; Mark did a better job of keeping it actually feeling like a fresh event (that is, he didn’t appear to be reading), while Bette, who had quite a career as a “straight” actor, did more reading but also enlivened her anecdotes with bawdy jokes and occasional songs.

So this isn’t a performance, per se, or a real interview; it’s a dramatization of one person’s life, and this means that much of its interest is going to hang on whether or not you are interested in them as a person. Well, I hadn’t come to satisfy some burning curiosity about Bette, but I was fascinated to hear about how one working class gay man got on with his life, from the experience of being queer in the 50s (no guilt, lots of sex, and now I understand a bit more about how and why Hampstead Heath figures in Pinter’s work), to creating a career as an actor, to the difference between working class and middle class activists (talking about philosophies in books versus living it), et cetera etc. And while all of that bio was certainly fun – the pictures of the Bloolips era made me really sad that I’d never seen them perform – it was the person that came through that was ultimately fascinating. Bette goes to auditions in a dress; walks around Notting Hill in lippy; and does this all even though, truly, society is still just not all that tolerant. But she says, “I’ve got to be me.” And, in a society where we are still having roles squashed on us and people just hate it when you don’t want to get in that box, whether you’re male or female – because God knows I’ve spent my life fighting to just have the space to be me – it was cheering to see someone who’d gone through the fire and out the other side and had got to that space where it wasn’t about shock or spectacle but just being yourself. And thanks for giving us that insight, Bette. Sure wish we could sit down and have a cup of tea and reminisce some day.

Note: on the night we went there was a presentation of “My life in 100 Words or Less,” which was fun to hear, but we did wind up having an interval though I’d thought this show ran straight through 90 minutes. Our total running time was around two hours.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, February 10th, 2010. A Life in Three Acts continues at the Soho Theatre through February 27th. As a crass ending, I’d love to add on Bette’s joke about the old queen with back problems but I’ll leave it to her to share it with you.)

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Theater deal: “A Life in 3 Acts” (Soho Theater) for £5 & writing contest

January 13, 2010

Last night I read about this contest the Evening Standard is running in conjunction with the Soho Theater and its production of “A Life in Three Acts” (with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill). Basically you write your life up in one of a variety of formats, then have it performed on stage for one special evening! (It says you pick an actor of your choice, but seriously, I don’t think Nick Garrison or Alan Cumming are likely to play me no matter how hard I ask – if they were even available.)

In addition, the play itself sounds really interesting – there was an article about it in the paper. I’d never heard of “Bette Bourne, Soho legend and pioneer of gay theatre,” but I want to find out, and to make it sweeter, the night they’re showing the play written by the audience (10th February), they’ve got £5 tickets. I just booked mine (call the Soho Theatre box office – 0207 478 0100 – and ask for the “Evening Standard.” Limit of 2 tickets per booking) – what a deal.

I know not all of you can enter this contest, but I am fascinated and will be doing it. (Here’s the link if you want to see it on the website.) I think a lot of you might find it fun to do just for the heck of it.

“London Artists Projects and the Evening Standard celebrate the opening of A Life in Three Acts with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill by giving you the chance to have your life performed in a hundred words or less by an actor of your choice.

To be in the running, send us your story, script, or even a poem, in a hundred words or less and name the living actor you’d most like to play you.

A Life in Three Acts – your chance to have your life performed by an actor of your choice

London Artists Projects and the Evening Standard celebrate the opening of A Life in Three Acts with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill by giving you the chance to have your life performed in a hundred words or less by an actor of your choice.

To be in the running, send us your story, script, or even a poem, in a hundred words or less and name the living actor you’d most like to play you.

We will then do our best to cast your chosen actor to perform your story as part of a Standard Readers’ Night on Wednesday 10 February at 7pm at Soho Theatre, to be followed by a performance of A Life in Three Acts at 7:30pm.

A Life in Three Acts is the award-winning show on the life of legendary actor and drag queen Bette Bourne as told on stage by Bette himself and the playwright Mark Ravenhill. The story moves from a post-war East End childhood, through to Soho in the swinging 60s, gay lib in the 70s, and on to the immortal Bloolips Theatre Company in the 80s and 90s in London and New York. The piece marks a different series of events in Bette’s life to reveal a portrait of an amazing individual and celebration of the momentous struggles and achievements of gay liberation.

Entries are open until 23.59 on 31 January and will be judged by playwright Mark Ravenhill, Fiona Hughes – Arts Editor for the Evening Standard, writer and journalist Paul Burston, and Artistic Director of Soho Theatre Lisa Goldman.

To book your £5 tickets to the Standard Readers’ Night on 10th February, call Soho Theatre box office on 0207 478 0100 and quote Evening Standard at the time of booking (limit of 2 tickets per booking). You don’t need to enter the competition to attend the Readers’ Night but it’s a lot more fun if you do!

A Life in Three Acts is a London Artists Projects production in association with Soho Theatre