Journal

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs

The lights go down, and the opening bars of My Favourite Things by John Coltrane begin to play. My insides are churning. It is the first preview of The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, a play I have been working on for more than three years.

I set out to write A Serious Drama about lesbian invisibility and the fragmentation of lesbian communities, à la The Inheritance or Angels in America. Instead, what tumbled out of me was a story about a ragtag bunch of queer misfits who come together to sing in a lesbian choir. As I watch bemused at the audience erupting with laughter around me, barely having time to catch their breath before the next gag, I realise I’ve written a kind of comedy. Something that Soho Theatre’s marketing department had insisted on labelling the show, despite my insistence to the contrary. I see now they were right. But as the elated audience rush to refill their drinks in the interval, I know the play will soon take a more serious turn.

The seeds of my Serious Drama have been planted, and the perceptive amongst the audience have sensed it already. Bubbling away just under the surface of the raucous first half is male violence, is the fragmentation of the LGBT community, is Britain’s hostile immigration system, is the occasional short-sightedness of white liberalism. Is how all of these things work to keep queer women oppressed.

And the second half does indeed turn on a dime – the humour and quirk still present, but second fiddle now to the rumbling double bass which has been in slow crescendo all along. There is pin-drop silence as the choir that up until now has enchanted the audience begins to come apart, tearing chunks out of each other, misunderstanding one another, scrabbling to save each other. Failing. And then I can feel the yearning in the room, the longing to connect once again, to resolve, to heal, to once again sing in harmony. The audience are part of the choir too, suddenly, longing for the community that was so vividly promised in the first half. And by the end, amidst the flicker of candles I can hear the sniffles, see a tear being wiped. There is the smallest glimmer of hope. Then darkness. The first preview audience leap to their feet in a standing ovation, as they have done pretty much every night since. I am surprised, relieved, ecstatic.

Cost of Living

The cost of my regular grocery shop is insidiously higher, and I can’t seem to work out where or how the extra pounds are creeping in, and therefore what I need to cut out or substitute. I received my first energy bill since the price cap jumped, which has meant I’ve had to re-budget my entire year. I am fortunate – I can accommodate these prices rises. My heart is breaking for those who can’t. Let’s not forget that what preceded the cost of living crisis was a housing crisis. Sky-high rents haven’t just gone away overnight and been replaced with sky-high energy bills. They’ve been added to. Hardworking families already teetering on the brink have now been well and truly pushed over it. The government has to do more. Lives depend on it. 

The bullying of transwomen

Could someone please tell Ricky Gervais that he isn’t clever, or daring, or cutting edge, and not even slightly funny. And that men like him have been laughing at and bullying transwomen on TV since it was invented. Jokes at the expense of transwomen make me swell with such profound rage that if someone were to stick a pin in me, I would flatten the earth with atomic force. This may be because I was once bullied too. Fear and repulsion of women who are not like “normal” women (read: cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, size ten, pleasing to the males) is pervasive and age-old. It also causes deep wounds. I know this to be true. This is not a school playground. This is not 1970. It wasn’t acceptable then, and it isn’t acceptable now, though I would hope that with more awareness today, people would know better. Stop the bullying. Enough is enough. 

What goes around

I have recently found myself to be depressed. What began perhaps in the early months of the pandemic reached a head at the start of this year. But also in the early months of the pandemic I read a wonderfully joyous book called What Goes Around by Emily Chappell, about her days in London as a cycle courier. Just reading it made me remember the joy cycling gives me and I decided my treatment plan for depression should be as follows: therapy, medication and a new bike. It has helped. There is something so elating about the sun, the wind and the tree pollen on my face as I careen down Broomfield Hill in Richmond Park, that it even gives me the confidence to purchase the proper gear. I am now officially a MAWIL – a middle aged woman in lycra – and proud. 

Tickets for The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs are on sale until 11 June 2022 and can be purchased from sohotheatre.com

Iman Qureshi’s prizewinning play “The Funeral Director”  premiered at Southwark Playhouse and she’s currently under commission from the Bush Theatre, English Touring Theatre, the Royal Court and the Almeida. Iman also has several TV projects in development

Columns

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Related Posts

Menu