Mart Crowley’s seminal play, The Boys in the Band, premiered in New York in 1968, just 14 months before the Stonewall riots that ignited the gay rights movement. Long before the likes of Martin Sherman‘s Bent (1979), Tony Kushner‘s Angels in America (1993) or Kevin Elyot‘s My Night With Reg (1994), this play broke new ground, changing history and the landscape of gay theatre. It was made into a film in 1970.
This first major London revival in 20 years features a stellar cast, directed by Adam Penford. After the sold-out performance last night (10 October 2016) at the Park Theatre, I had the immense pleasure of chairing a Q&A with 81-year-old Mart Crowley (who has flown over from the US for the show’s opening) and the full cast.
Mart recalled how he came to write the play – in response to an article bemoaning the fact that near-contemporaries Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee and William Inge still felt they needed to write ‘in code’ about gay experiences and thanks in large parts to a six-week house-sitting stint and Natalie Woods – and struggled to get it on in New York in 1968. Fascinating insights into how much – and how little – has changed in the 48 years since.
In addition to Mart, I was joined by the entire cast for the Q&A: Ian Hallard, Mark Gatiss, Daniel Boys, Jack Dergess, James Holmes, John Hopkins, Greg Lockett, Ben Mansfield and Nathan Nolan.
Have a listen to the podcast for more details on Mart’s life and further discussion of, amongst much else, gay rights, Stonewall, coming out, growing up in the American South, being vigilant about progress, Jack Derges‘ faux pas at auditions, John Hopkins‘ secret, how seeing The Boys in the Band film profoundly affected Mark Gatiss as a boy, 21st-century sequels, updates and relevance, and lots of name-dropping and sweet-sharing from the one and only Mart Crowley. What a legend.
The Boys in the Band continues at London’s Park Theatre until 30 October 2016 and then tours to Manchester, Brighton and Leeds, where it concludes on 19 November 2016.
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) October 6, 2016
Event photography by Peter Jones.