By Raphael Kohn
Calling this a ‘night to remember’ doesn’t even cut it. After the horrific attack in Clapham, outside the Two Brewers bar,that shook the queer community to its core, it was up to Awkward Productions to create an evening of fundraising that epitomised the joy of being openly queer – and the importance of queer rights.
With previous hits ‘how to live a jellicle life’ and ‘Diana: The Untrue and Untold Story’ have won fringe accolades and great success around the country, Awkward Productions were certainly the right people for the job – not only themselves being talented but also assembling a fantastic line-up of performers, including Birmingham drag royalty Yshee Black, Sooz Kempner and My Son’s A Queer’s Rob Madge. The fundraiser was hosted by Awkward Productions’ own Linus Karp, with co-host Joseph Martin tucked away behind the sound desk but always ready to contribute with a cheeky grin.
After an introductory speech from Stonewall, emphasising the importance of queer rights and reminding us of the danger the community is in, the evening was kicked off by Karp and Martin reading a ‘queer bedtime story’, in which some of the various adjectives, names and places were suggested by the audience to fill the blanks. It was a very funny opening and set the tone of the evening just right.
The first guest performer was the marvellously-jumpsuited Sam Carlyle, taking to the stage to deliver some entertaining stand-up comedy. Not only a funny comedian, she also managed to show off her vocal talent with a song to cap off her routine. Slaying the stage after was Yshee Black, a fabulous drag queen who brought the energy into the room with a serious of lip-syncs, starting with a dramatic, ballad-y moment before setting the stage alight with a garage routine.
After a brief interval (and a chance to get a drink!), we were reminded of the importance of the evening with a speech from Michael Smith, a member of the community who had unfortunately been a victim of an attack in Brixton recentlyafter Black Pride 2023. Also understanding the gravity of the situation, he has successfully been fundraising for Stonewall himself, and it reminded us just what we were fundraising for.
Karp and Martin then brought all the performers on stage for an entertaining game, where half the performers had to deliver lines from famous pieces of British media while Rob Madge and Stephanie Wood had to work out what they were from. Despite not having the upper hand, being from New Zealand, Wood still made an admirable attempt at the answers… if by ‘admirable attempt’ we are counting answering each question with ‘I don’t know, I’m from New Zealand’. Only adding to the raucous laughter in the room each time she answered, Wood had the audience in stitches with her facial expressions and humourous answers.
We were then treated to a phenomenal performance from Wood (who will next be seen in the upcoming international tour of The Last Five Years as the Alternate Cathy), who combined dance and comedy fantastically to deliver a sensationally chaotic accordion-based burlesque number. It would be a disservice to Wood to spoil her act by revealing her tricks and putting her jokes into writing; she is a performer who needs to be seen to be believed. I know without a doubt I’ll be booking tickets to her future performances.
Twitter’s favourite transphobe-destroyer, Sooz Kempner, graced the stage next with a side-splittingly funny comedy routine. Decked out in enough sequins to blind a small child, and with a wit sharp enough to cut, Kempner had the audience struggling to breathe with her comedy and well-managed heckler interactions, following her comedy act with a brilliant display of her vocal talent as she sang. She was followed by some recorded messages from Jaron, one of the victims of the Clapham attack a month ago, songwriter Leland (known to many for his appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race) and from Elizabeth Ljunggren, mother of Linus Karp and queer icon.
Closing the line-up was West End star and creator of My Son’s A Queer, But What Can You Do? (a real favourite here at All That Dazzles), Rob Madge. Bringing part of My Son’s A Queer with them as they performed excerpts, complete with videos of their childhood on the screens at the Two Brewers, as well as singing the showstopping ‘We Will Be Loved Anyway’ to get the tears flowing and the audience’s heartstrings well and truly pulled. Madge had the audience in the palm of their hand as they delivered a captivating performance.
Boosting the funds raised, Karp and Martin closed the night off with a raffle with a huge array of prizes, from some 3D glasses (sorry, ‘gay glasses’) to merch from their shows, and including some very exciting donated items, including tickets to Diana: The Musical at the Hammersmith Apollo, donated by Lambert Jackson Productions, and a voucher for a professionally catered meal for 8 people. Although I feel a huge sense of jealousy towards the winners of many of these items (I did not win any), it was still a tremendously entertaining close to the evening.
Reflecting on the evening, organiser and host Linus Karp said: "It was incredible to be surrounded by queer joy, love and resilience at a night that was both hilarious and powerful. The acts performing were unreal and we are thrilled to have raised over 2k for Stonewall. The atmosphere was so special and it just shows that even when under attack, the queer community responds with solidarity and love."
There’s no better way really to summarise just how special this event was; Karp’s words speak for themselves. I’m personally so thankful to Awkward Productions for putting this night of entertainment and queer joy together – having a theatrical and proudly queer world to immerse myself in was a treat. They have raised £2156 in one night from their fundraiser, all to go to Stonewall to support their projects, a huge achievement for this brilliant team.
Please feel free to donate to Stonewall at the link below.
Quote ‘QUEER LOVE WINS’ in your donations to link it to Awkward Productions’ fundraiser!