A powerful play tracking five decades of the LGBTQ rights movement heads a season of creative events happening across the city to help mark Norwich Pride.
Riot Act (above) tracks those who lived through key moments in gay life and is visiting Stage Two at Norwich Theatre Royal as part of a UK tour to help mark the 50th anniversary weekend of the Stonewall riots.
The hard-hitting and hilarious play is part of a series of events for the annual Creative Pride season which is part of the city’s celebrations to help make Norwich safe and proud and will see performances, events and support across the Theatre Royal, Playhouse and Stage Two during July.
Riot Act is penned by the critically-acclaimed writer and performer Alexis Gregory and uses the words of three noted activists to take the audience through history.
They are Michael-Anthony Nozzi who was one of the final survivors of Stonewall, London-based radical drag artist Lavinia Co-op who shot to prominence in the 1970s, and the respected Nineties writer and AIDS activist Paul Burston.
The production, which takes to the stage on July 3, aims to be provocative and political while blending together stories of sexuality, activism, addiction, community togetherness and even a Hollywood diva.
It is written by and stars Alexis Gregory who is no stranger to the city. He also wrote Safe which explored the real-life stories of young people facing challenges around homelessness linked to their gender or sexual identity. Based on true life-stories about people helped by the Albert Kennedy Trust, a brand new production of it was created and performed in Stage Two.
As well as the strong creative input of Alexis, Riot Act is directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair who set up the production company Team Angelica which creates entertainment across many media. He also wrote Stonewall for BBC Films which won a host of international awards and the critically-acclaimed Channel 4 series Metrosexuality.
Rob Ward, Riot Act’s producer, said it is a topical time to bring the production to life. He said: “With recent developments in Brunei as well as protests outside primary schools in Birmingham, Riot Act provides a timely reminder just how precious these rights are and how passionately they must be defended. We are incredibly proud to present it to audiences across the UK this Pride season.”
In parallel with this, people are being given the chance to create a brand new piece of queer theatre in Norwich which will be premiered in the Norwich Playhouse Playroom on July 22. Throughout July, participants can sign up to the new course Playwriting With Pride which will run at Stage Two.
They will work under the guidance of Norfolk-based playwright James McDermott (above), who is best known for his play Rubber Ring which is a semi-autobiographical production based on his experiences of growing up gay in the North of the county.
He will guide them through techniques to create characters, stories, forms and structures of plays as part of the process which will end with the finished work.
Anyone interested in being part of the creative process can find out more at ntr.org.uk/CreativePride
Norwich Playhouse hosts a visit from the comedy cabaret chanteuse Miss Hope Springs (above) on Friday 12 July. Toe-tapping shot tunes, finger-snapping pop and heart-rending torch songs will be mixed with showbiz tales of her time in LA and Paris, as well as touching on her current life in a camper van in Dungeness which she shares with her husband Irving and his close hairdresser pal Carlos.
Miss Hope is the creation of the acclaimed songwriter, pianist, singer and comic actor Ty Jeffries who grew up between Pinewood and Hollywood where he mixed with the likes of Shirley MacLaine, Diana Dors and Shelley Winters, and even danced with Fred Astaire.
The following evening, Suzi Ruffell brings her critically-acclaimed show Nocturnal to the Playhouse. Known for appearances on the likes of Live At The Apollo and Mock The Week, she will focusing on her worries about a host of subjects including someone breaking into her flat, human rights across the globe and her cat’s quality of life.
Completing the season will be an evening of music with singer-songwriter Sue Lane on Tuesday 23 July in Stage Two. She will be performing a host of songs including a couple inspired by Out140, the stories of people from the region who share their coming-out stories in 140 characters.
Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive, said: “The marking of 50 years since Stonewall is as relevant as ever bearing in mind world events. We were keen to mark both this and Norwich Pride with a creative celebration of LGBTQ life and culture in our venues.
“Our Creative Pride season will reflect and explore many issues and we are excited to play a part this year by hosting events across our spaces as well as once again being on the Pride route.”