Love Song to Lavender Menace

It is hard to envision in these times of gay marriage, civil partnerships, Pride marches in so many major cities and a whole new level of understanding that at some point in our recent history a bookshop which sold gay themed literature could cause such a stir in its local community especially considering that community was Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.
But we need look back no further than 1982 when Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielsen rose to the challenge of taking their makeshift bookstall in the cloakroom of the legendary gay club Fire Island to new premises in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town and in the process naming it Lavender Menace.
Written by James Ley and directed by Ros Phillips the witty and well observed script centres around two main protagonists Lewis (Pierce Reed) and Glen (Matthew McVarrish) as they prepare to celebrate the shop’s 5th birthday and pay homage to Sigrid and Bob. It is a celebration tinged with conflicting emotions however as the shop is closing and moving onto new premises under the name West and Wilde.
Alongside this change Lewis and Glen have some unresolved issues between each other that have been lurking beneath the surface since their very first encounter –which incidentally is acted out brilliantly with skill, wit and verve.
Juxtaposed alongside the main storyline are several others including a closeted married man who can’t quite cross the threshold of the shop to explore his desires he believes lies in the literature held within until it is too late; the shop has closed and its owners and stock have moved on.
Several flashback scenes capture the energy, excitement and new freedoms of being gay that started to emerge in the eighties. The soundtrack includes many anthems and favourites of the era and they work brilliantly in the context of the stories as they unravel.
Definitely a Fringe highlight for me this year Love Song to lavender Menace captures not only an era but for me personally brings back so many evocative memories of the times, the bookshop itself and even some of the characters mentioned in the play. You do not have to have a personal interest in the story however as the emotions- happy, sad, proud and defiant- it captures are universal and the story is likely to touch anyone who sees it due to its great performances, fast-paced drama, tight direction and cleverly written dialogue.
A must see!
Love Song to Lavender Menace is on at Summerhall at 12.55pm daily (except Mondays) until August 27th

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