Review: Love Song To Lavender Menace by James Ley

This tender tribute to a queer bookshop is moving and politically engaging

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Love Song to Lavender Menace by James Ley. Image: Aly Wight
Published 16 Aug 2018

'Lavender Menace' was a 1970s group protesting the exclusion of lesbians from the feminist movement. It was also the name of a queer Edinburgh bookshop that opened just two years after homosexuality was legalised in Scotland, the subject of this politically charged rom-com by James Ley.

The play, Ley's homage to both the bookshop and the protest group, brings long-time colleagues Glen and Lewis together on the evening before Lavender Menace closes for good. It also pays tribute to Fire Island, a prominent Edinburgh gay nightclub in the '80s that is now, ironically enough, a Waterstones.

Ley interweaves the fictional account of a closeted, shame-filled husband with Glen and Lewis’s late-night reminiscences, a subtle example of the experiences given space to breath in the haven of the bookshop. Everything fits snugly together; flashbacks are natural extensions of the duo’s last conversations before capitalism commercialises their queer-alt world.

Pierce Reid effortlessly plays a drama queen, both as overtly camp Lewis and as the tongue-in-cheek caricatures from his memories. Matthew McVarish is a gleeful Glen, earnest and honest about his feelings for his co-worker. Together they mourn the demise of this hard-won safe space. 

Love Song… uses powerful personal accounts to rally against what's happening in the wider political landscape. It’s a scream into the void, set against a backdrop of Thatcherism, the AIDS crisis and Section 28.