Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper is about to return to our screens on Netflix and it has proved what we knew all the way along; love is love and audiences long to see themselves or their friends or family on screen, as you got to see it to be it.
If you want to see consistently great and interesting queer representation though, the theatre is where you be headed.
There are some great grassroots companies, determined to push the envelope and subvert audience expectations, even if that means not adhering to the tropes that many of us expect to see.
Stewart Campbell is the artistic director at Manchester theatre company Qweerdog and we caught up with more to hear about how this theatre company started and to hear all about Qweer Shorts which returns to the Hope Mill Theatre next month.
How did Qweerdog come about?
Back in 2017, when I was graduating from the Manchester School of Theatre, I met with fellow Manchester-based writer, Stephen M Hornby, to discuss how I went about staging a short play I’d written.
His advice was to stage it myself at the upcoming GM Fringe Festival.
So, I did.
I came up with a few ideas for a company name, and asked my friends on Facebook to vote for their favourite – and Qweerdog was born.
Where do you feel we are with queer representation on stage and on TV. Would you say things have improved?
I feel that LGBTQ+ representation on TV is far greater, and more wide-ranging than when I growing up in the 80s and 90s, which isn’t hard.
Do I think there’s enough?
Do I think it’s always well presented and handled with care and sensitivity?
I do feel that theatre is streets ahead of TV & Film in this respect. Netflix needs to stop cancelling queer shows after one season, for a start!
How do you select the shorts you are going to stage? Are writers invited to send their work to you?
This project was created back in 2021 as a ‘semi-scratch night’; mixing script-in-hand with rehearsed pieces of new writing and putting them in front of paying audience.
I’ve always felt this is the best way to get an honest and real reaction to your writing.
When we moved to Hope Mill this year, we rebranded that element as ‘Qweer Shorts: Introducing’, with the knowledge that we wanted to give the pieces that have worked well, and have received the biggest audience responses over the last two years, the opportunity to be rewritten, reworked, and most importantly, shared with a wider audience.
Qweer Shorts, will be at Hope Mill for a week during Manchester Pride, and then, be taken out of Manchester for the first time, to Liverpool in September.
We encourage writers to send us their LGBTQ+ stories, monologues, plays and poems whenever they want – we are already planning the next Qweer Shorts: Introducing where this whole process begins again.
What do you like about staging work at the Hope Mill Theatre?
Hope Mill is a fantastic venue.
The theatre is a good size, the stage is huge and lends itself well to all sorts of theatre.
The audiences are always warm and generous and supportive of LGBTQ+ work.
Will and Joe have been so supportive of me and Qweerdog.
I staged my first ever full-length play, Absolute Certainty?, at Hope Mill as part of the inaugural Turn on Fest back in 2020 – and when I approached them about bringing Qweer Shorts to Hope Mill they couldn’t have been more generous and encouraging.
They got that it wasn’t just a scratch-night, nor just a week-long show, they were onboard with the vision.
Qweer Shorts is about us creating a platform for new writers, directors, and actors, and importantly offering a pathway where writers can see their work progress from script-in-hand to fully staged and touring.
If someone has not seen Qweer shorts before, what would you say to get them to come along?
Qweer Shorts is guaranteed to be a curious and eclectic night of theatre.
The pieces chosen reflect different aspects of the LGBTQ+ rainbow.
There’s comedy, conflict, politics, two men in drag, and even horror (of sorts!).
Come along, we’ll make you think and laugh in equal measure.