Downtown Pompey are bringing Opal Nights - an evening of queer storytelling - to New Theatre Royal
and live on Freeview channel 276
There will be stories about climbing mountains (literally and figuratively), the baking of a great pie, hearts broken and healed. All stories are autobiographical as told by storytellers from the city’s queer community.
It is the latest show from Downtown Pompey, the queer-led community arts company.
Alex Allison of Downtown Pompey says: ‘Opal Nights, is the culmination of three workshops working with the queer community of Portsmouth. We've been working with people to devise their personal, autobiographical stories. Generally these stories have an element of transformation in them, but it can just be little things and how these smaller things can represent a bigger transformation in our lives, whatever people feel comfortable in telling.
‘And we've been working with people in developing those skills to tell their stories so that they can be heard – more people can hear the queer community of Portsmouth, because there is one.
‘If there's any difference or divide between the queer community and the general community, there's also a real ability to see our common humanity, and storytelling is such a powerful way of doing that. It's a great way to relate to other people – we've all experienced the same feelings if not exactly in the same situations.
‘The way we define "queer" at Downtown Pompey, it's beyond gender and sexuality – it's a culture, a way of being, a way of looking at the world, or experiencing the world in a slightly different way. It's about finding what queerness means to them as well.’
The show will feature 12 storytellers, many of whom are new to the stage.
‘This is why we work with people to develop stories,’ says Alex. ‘How do you tell a story? What's the arc of a story? It’s how to feel confident being on stage telling your story to other people, and we make sure we have that support to make them feel comfortable and safe.
‘We are in the community, we are part of the community, it's not like we come in going: “Oh you poor people who need help!”’
Alex explains how, when they put word out about these workshops through their ties with numerous groups and organisations, they had ‘a great response.'
‘I think they know because we support the people we work with, that they're not just expected to rock up and do it!’
Tickets are a £7 donation with the option to purchase a ‘Pay A Ticket Forward’.
‘We've done pay what you can, but then you also have the opportunity to buy an extra ticket for £7 if you have the means so that we can have a number of tickets to offer to people for whom cost would be a barrier to attending,’ explains Alex.
‘We want to make it as accessible for everyone as possible. There are people who've lived in Portsmouth all their lives, and have never really gone to the theatre because it doesn't feel like they have a stake in that space. This is a way to change that and hearing these stories is part of that.’
Opal Nights is at New Theatre Royal on Tuesday and Wednesday April 25 and 26.
On the first night they have a guest performance from the multi-award winning performer and broadcaster, Scottee, and the following night, hot-off the stage of their Southbank Centre show, by Travis Alabanza, an award-winning writer, performer and theatre maker.
They plan to have a BSL interpreter on one of the nights – check with the theatre for details.