18–30 August, 10.30
When Mark Ravenhill entered the intimate space of Traverse Two (dominated by a beautiful and unnerving projected image of Bette Bourne in black and white) already laughing, the tone for the next hour was set.
With occasional interjections from Mr Ravenhill, Bette Bourne reminisced, with vivacity and wit, about the days of the Bloolips group, in the company of such characters as Lavinia Co-op and Precious Pearl. His some-singing, some-dancing performance had the audience in stitches. I had had very little idea of what to expect from the “play” – which felt more like an informal personal discussion that the audience was lucky enough to be almost part of – but I found myself early in the proceedings giggling at the delightfully rude ‘Banana song’ (and the image of Bourne and his co-performers dancing at the back of a very small truck, toting large imitation fruit)!
Though there were without a doubt moments of anarchic hilarity, the more poignant side of his performing years came across with honest sincerity. His remembrances of the horror of the first onset of AIDS were painful and moving. There was absolute silence as he said that he had lost almost one hundred of his friends to the disease. In his reaction to the perception of drag even today, in what is an apparently tolerant society, Bourne exhibited sadness and some anger. However, he did not dwell for long on these darker reflections, finishing with yet another upbeat and humorous song.
I would thoroughly recommend this performance. Mr Bourne seemed charming: a genuinely nice person as well as a true performer with a lovely sense of timing and a wry sense of humour.