Review: The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs at Soho Theatre

Iman Qureshi’s bittersweet comedy offers a snapshot of the lives of six women united by a love of singing

Friday, 20th May — By Lucy Popescu

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs_Production_Helen Murray

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs. Back row from left: Lara Sawalha, Fanta Barrie, Mariah Louca; front from left: Claudia Jolly, Kibong Tanji, Kiruna Stamell. PHOTO: Helen Murray

 

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs
Soho Theatre
☆☆☆☆

A COMPELLING, bittersweet plot, cracking performances and upbeat choral work make Iman Qureshi’s The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs a show to remember.

Led by conductor Connie (Shuna Snow), a self-proclaimed OWL (older, wiser lesbian), six women meet in a ramshackle, leaking venue off Dean Street to sing in a choir.

They rehearse various numbers from The Sound of Music to Tracy Chapman, often adapting the lyrics to reflect their personal experience: “Feminist essays and cute rescue kittens / sensible footwear and vegan nutrition / multiple orgasms and sharing feelings / These are a few of our favourite things.”

The characters have different reasons for joining the choir and Qureshi offers snapshots of their lives, their motivations and desires, as well as the problems they face in their search for acceptance.

Dina (Lara Sawalha) is from Qatar, married with children. She’s recently discovered she likes women and is desperate to meet other lesbians. Academic Ana (Claudia Jolly) and closeted electrician Lori (Kibong Tanji) are a couple at the difficult seven-year stage, while Ellie (Fanta Barrie) is looking for her next conquest.

Brig (Mariah Louca) a transwoman, and Fi (Kiruna Stamell) a person of short stature, enjoy a burgeoning friendship and are beginning to feel they might belong in the choir.

Connie wants the group to perform on the main stage at Pride – as the only lesbian choir in the country. They win a place, but an unfortunate incident shatters their fragile identity. They’re banned for life and trolled on social media.

Woven into the comedy, Qureshi sensitively explores topical issues – inclusivity and identity, gendered language, closeted people and transphobia. These draw together the women and divide them.

Ultimately a love of singing reunites the group. In Hannah Hauer-King’s assured production, it’s the gorgeous harmonies that resonate after the final curtain call.

Until June 11
sohotheatre.com

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