2022 was a fantastic year of queer representation in the media. We saw the iconic Ru Paul’s Drag Race gain mainstream attention; the world became obsessed with the Netflix original series Heartstopper and the Lightyear movie turned heads after including a same-sex couple! It is obviously a fantastic thing that as a global community we are seeing more and more queer representation in the media. While these ground-breaking queer moments are so vital for the global LGBT+ community, it’s also important that we take time to celebrate local queer stories/moments and events. I was personally most excited about the return of Pride Cymru after two years of the entire world standing still, especially when it was announced that this year Pride Cymru will be returning but this time it will take place in June (Pride month) and inside Cardiff Castle! While this is a fantastic announcement, I am slightly concerned however that people will get into the mindset that this is Cardiff Pride instead of the actual title of Wales’ Pride festival. As someone who has grown up in Cardiff for my entire life, it’s so easy to fall into that awful trap of thinking Cardiff is the centre of the world but it’s not just Cardiff that makes up Wales!
Queerway is a brand new song cycle musical that celebrates and shares the true stories of queer people and those connected to them growing up in the South Wales valleys coming from the incredible minds of Geraint Owen who I was first introduced to during his run-in XXXmas Carol at the Wales Millennium Centre last year with my review available here and Luke Hereford (who is currently touring fabulously fun show Grandmothers Closet.)
The cabaret-style musical sees a compact cast explore the trials and tribulations of coming out, finding true love and a mum’s love for their trans child in an very raw and emotional show. What is unique about this show is despite the actors changing (literally and figuratively) into different characters on stage, the set itself does not change ensuring the focus stays on the emotional underpinning of these real and local stories.
In his debut to the musical theatre world, this brand new song cycle stars Welsh Drag King superstar Justin Drag (Ren Simons) who spearheads the transition events (which you can learn more about here , which for the first time will be hosted in Wales Millennium Centre in two weeks!
Considering this was the first time he had taken to the stage, Justin was completely comfortable in front of the audience even socialising with the audience before the show! My favourite number in this entire show would have to be the track “Not that Type of Gay” which was a hilarious duet between Justin (Ren) and Harrison Smith. The song discusses how the two opposing queers (one being extremely masculine and the other hyper-feminine) who are falling in love with one each other despite being polar opposites. This number highlights the important discussions about what things “gay” which is an issue that many people still fight with when considering sexuality even today. I also really enjoyed the fact that this song gave a nod to the Kings which is the local gay bar that I have frequented on many an evening!
The most powerful song throughout this show however would have to be “I Love you Anyway” which was an incredible song performed by the immensely talented Kate Griffiths.
The number is told from the perspective of a mother who has discovered her child is transgender and how this has affected her family. The honest and real look into the range of emotions a parent experiences when there child is going through this transition was so insightful and by the end of the song, where the mum reaches a point of unmatched love and support, every person in the audience (my self-included) was in tears! The combination of insane vocals and moving lyrics worked beautifully together to create a very moving performance that everyone seemed to really enjoy! From a song that tugged on every heart strong to a song that made everyone want to jump up and dance along. Towards the middle of this show, there was a fabulous queer medley of iconic songs that was gave full on energy and fun. The performers donned headphones to explain the electric and club-style tracks which was a wonderful inclusion and when they busted out some wonderful fan-ography (dancing with fans) was just so incredibly flamboyant which is something I personally love!
Overall, Queerway shines a light on not just queer stories but from the perspective of those who are just a short drive away. The stripped-back nature of both the prop and set means that the audience can really submerge themselves into the emotional and powerful yet honest and real undertones of the show!
You can find out more about the production here https://leewayproductions.com/queerway/