March 27, 2023 Edge

Q&A: Great Indecenies

We spoke to Joshua Val Martin all about IAP’s upcoming production following the character of Leonard who agreed to help a student with their “Queer History” project. 

Instead, they embark on solving a mystery that has haunted Leonard for a lifetime…

Read on for some extra details about the show coming to The Edge on Thursday 30th March, Friday 31st March, and Saturday 1st April 2023

First things first, tell us a little bit about what we can expect with Great Indecencies

‘Older gay man Leonard recently got into ‘online dating’ and was surprised to find he’s rather popular. This evening, his gentleman caller has an ulterior motive; the two embark on solving a mystery that has haunted Len for a lifetime.’

Over the last year, we’ve interviewed hundreds of older gay men and asked: What was it like to come of age just as homosexuality began to be decriminalised? The accounts are sexy and shocking, heart-breaking and life-affirming. I wanted to capture these feelings in the play, as well as be true to the accounts – every bit of plot and dialogue in the play comes from one of the true stories we’d been told.

What was the creative process like balancing comedy with the darker themes?

It’s not really something that’s crossed my mind. We interviewed older LGBT+ people, then from these interviews, I identified common themes and stories that particularly interested me. There was then a period of exploration – a number of writing exercises, and research projects, and I read work that had already been done on the subjects – before beginning to consider the play’s central questions, characters, and story. Writing the play, I focussed on characters – who they are, why they’re there, what they want – as well as frequently going back to the interviews, and ensuring the play is completely grounded in the stories we’d been told. I think, focussing on the human truth of a play, the light/dark comes naturally.

How did you balance the real-life accounts with the more theatrical, musical elements of the play?

At first, I’d quite liked the idea of GREAT INDECENCIES being a play with music – but, being led by the stories we’d been entrusted with, it became clear that this wasn’t the right form for this play. Hardly anyone mentions music! But people did talk about cinema, about protest, about cottages, about their fallible memory, about old photos and first loves. These real-life memories are already so theatrical.

What are the most significant motifs present in Great Indecencies and why are they still so poignant today?  

I have recently been on the end of two homophobic attacks. The windows of Manchester’s gay sex shop got bricked this week. No coincidence that our government of twelve years is peddling ‘culture wars’ for political currency – and yet, still, I know young gay men who vote tory. 

I want to shout: don’t you know your history? J*mes *ndertn? HIV/AIDS? Section 28? 

But then I wonder… is it their history? Is there such thing as our history – or is it just a collection of other people’s stories?

It’s these questions of the importance and ownership of LGBT+ history that run through the play.

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