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Review: Qweer Shorts at Hope Mill Theatre will ‘make you laugh, cry and leave you in awe’

Qweer Shorts has been causing a stir in Manchester with their innovative and wonderful storytelling

In a world where social media affects people’s perceptions of others, and simply becomes noise and insults, followed by anger and blocks, subversive theatre featuring characters who are often presented as wise-cracking side-kicks, victims swimming in a sea of trauma, or malevolent monsters is welcome.

And that’s exactly what you get from the excellent theatre company Qweerdog, led by Stewart Campbell.

You might find yourself feeling a bit left behind when you look at sexuality and gender in 2023.

But these six shorts show you different types of representation and explore a great deal in bite-sized chunks.

And nothing is patronising about the delivery or messages within, as they entertain, as much as they educate some members of the audience.

Jack Horsefield and Martin Johnston’s Pride of Place kicks things off and it does get you thinking about the Pride flag, and how some companies might use it this weekend as a one off and by Tuesday, we move onto Halloween.

There are businesses that welcome everyone and provide inclusive spaces all year round and this play looks at all sides of this argument, which does come up often.

Horsefield and Johnston use humour to get their point across and with their three characters; a do-gooder, an exasperated gay man, and a tired HR director, and it works wonderfully well and leaves you laughing, as well as thinking.

Patrick Jeffries, Michelle Kelly and John Joyce O’Keeffe run with the marvellous material they are given and break the fourth wall. Stewart Campbell directs with a real sense of pace, and this one flies by.

Body Positively Fine by Caitlin Magnall-Kearns is an edgy romance with a difference.

We see two women dating, and the awkwardness that develops feels familiar and perceptive. Like the previous piece, humour carries you, alongside some excellent observations, about body image and how we all view things differently, from a personal standpoint and our own experiences of how we see ourselves.

Elizabeth Meadows and Jess Perillo have great chemistry, and Hannah Ellis Ryan directs with genuine sensitivity. I loved the lighting, as it provides a cinematic feel, to take us through the stages of this burgeoning relationship.

Moneybags by Victoria Tunnah features the after-effects of discovering a gym bag filled with money.

Tony (Riah Amelle) and Emma (Leni Murphy) are the finders keepers pair.

They discuss what they want to do with the cash and the moral arguments of keeping it or giving it back, and where it might have come from.

Beneath this, this is a story about identity and more importantly the importance of pronouns and how personal they are to people.

But just when this gets interesting, we go back to the money again. This one has promise, it just needs to focus on one thing or the other. The performances are playful and energetic.

We move to the world of vampires with Etyan Deray’s Biters but with a twist, amongst a world of dating apps and one stands.

Only this time, the vampire is longing for a life partner.

Cleverly dispensing the dress codes of Dracula, Renfield and Co, you do get something a bit twisty here.

The set-up is great but a bit like Claudia from Interview with a Vampire, I wanted more, in terms of dialogue that bites and more to chew on. Actors Joey Ethan and Brandon McCaffrey both deliver this premise with confidence and ease.

Jude Leath’s Parental Guidance is an incredibly moving monologue with grabs you right from the off.

As performer and writer, Leath delivers this deeply personal piece with so much conviction, that I wanted to shout out: “I got you!” halfway through.

The school gates have become a place filled with helicopter parents, who are competing more than their children.

Place a parent here, who does not look like them, act like them, or play the same ‘games’, in terms of shouting about what little darlings are up to.

And watch this horror show unfold, as a warm and loving parent becomes a monster, created and written by a baying mob.

I could watch this one for another hour, it is that good. Emotive and beautifully drawn Adam Cachia directs this with the utmost respect for the enigmatic performer, that is Jude Leath.

Joe Henry-Evans’s Natter on the surface is a homage to Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough’s double act of Cissie and Ada, the two Northern housewives who would mouth swearwords or gossip about their neighbours, as opposed to utter the words.

But Linda (Joe Henry-Evans) and Helen (John Thacker) are placed in a world of hatred towards gay men. Margaret Thatcher is in power, Aids is not named, but it lurks in the background.

And Linda keeps referring to her son and a man he has lived with, but cannot see that he is gay.

This is subversive, and underneath the comedy, deeply poignant.

But you will bust a gut laughing as the comedy is spot on, including a dog called Liza, referenced as a throwaway line. 

Qweer Shorts presents you with an evening, where queer creatives take centre stage and they will make you laugh, cry, and in one particular short, leave you in awe.

Heartstoppers and shows like this may grab the headlines for their representation.

But this is theatre that you can take a newcomer to, and get them off the couch and into a world of wonder and representation to savour. 

And if you enjoy a binge watch, you could always head to 53-two this Friday or Saturday to see John O’Neil’s Coke, Machines, Stars and Kisses, too. Incorporate some theatre into your Pride weekend.

Qweerdog presents Qweer Shorts at the Hope Mill Theatre from 21st – 27th August and tickets can be booked here.

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