August 4, 2022 Rhiannon Ingle

Q&A: Let’s All Be Fairies

Presented by The Edge, Let’s All Be Fairies, is a funny, risqué and often poignant cabaret celebrating the ‘out’ gay performers of the Prohibition era, ‘Pansy Craze’.

In the New York, underground nightclubs of the 1920s and 30s prohibition era, out and proud gay performers, labeled ‘pansies’, were to be found singing their own satirical and often risqué gay material.

These celebrated performers ignited what was known as the ‘Pansy Craze’ and enjoyed a prominence that had never been seen before. Some of them even performed in films and on Broadway, with performers like Mae West championing them.

In Britain, however, things were not so ‘open’. Gay performers still had to hide their sexual identity with many of their songs only revealing gay subtext to those ‘in the know’.

So, join us for a little dive into the inner workings behind the production with writer and actor Andrew Pollard to find out a little more about this rich evening filled with laughs, tears, and all the in between!

First things first, tell us what a “Pansy” is…

Pansy was the term most often used in the 1920s and 30s to describe a gay man. Its connotation was someone who was flamboyant and effete. It was a pretty derogatory term but some gay men chose to wear it as a badge of honour and reveled in the title. 

So, we know what a “Pansy” is now, but why is the story of the “Pansy Craze” so important to remember?

It was a time in the late 20s and early ’30s, mainly in New York, where gay male performers were accepted and were able to perform as ‘out’ gay men, writing their own special songs and material. It’s fascinating to rediscover these people and their songs and to bring them to a modern audience. It’s a unique piece of gay history that we are honoured to celebrate. 

How did you go about modernizing ideas, language, and concepts that are now over a hundred years old and bringing them all into the 21st century?

The great thing is that we haven’t modernised them at all. Good material always stands the test of time. These songs were written to be performed live and we found, that the last time we did the show, the audience lapped them up! They are funny and poignant in equal measure. 

How did you go about weaving in the history with the humour? Did the two blend seamlessly or did it take some extra effort to join them?

Well, we also look at what was going on in the UK, in terms of gay performers and performances. The UK performers were much more covert in terms of their sexual identity and their material with their songs often having hidden meanings. The show sort of compares and contrasts the performers and their styles and that became the throughline. I was keen that the show wasn’t just a boring list of dates and names – after all, this is a cabaret show – but I found so much interesting material and stories – often funny, sometimes sad and poignant – that it became quite a task, editing out stuff to keep the show down to a brisk length!

What is the greatest legacy these “pioneer performers” have left for the wider gay community?

That there is a wealth of queer history out there still to be found. That these performers were sometimes risking their lives to be who they wanted to be and, in that respect, we owe a debt to them. They began the fight for acceptance and tolerance and, whether overt or covert, these performers paved the way for the gay performers of today. People like Julian Clary, Ollie Alexander, Joe Lycett, and Alan Carr are part of that legacy.

If you’d like to come and see Let’s All Be Fairies, be sure to grab tickets and come along to The Edge on Friday 16th & Saturday 17th September 2022 kicking off at 7:30 pm on both evenings.

BOOK NOW

Tagged: ,