Ministry matters

Review: The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs at the Soho Theater

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

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs
Soho Theater

A compelling and bittersweet plot, stunning performances and upbeat choral work make Iman Qureshi The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs a sight to remember.

Led by self-proclaimed bandleader Connie (Shuna Snow), an owl (an older, wiser lesbian), six women meet in a rundown, leaky Dean Street location to sing in a choir.

They repeat various numbers of The sound of music to Tracy Chapman, often adapting the lyrics to reflect their personal experience: “Feminist essays and cute rescue kittens / Sensitive shoes and vegan nutrition / Multiple orgasms and sharing feelings / These are some of our favorite things. »

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

Dina (Lara Sawalha) is from Qatar, married and has children. She recently discovered that she likes women and is desperate to meet other lesbians. Academic Ana (Claudia Jolly) and shut-in electrician Lori (Kibong Tanji) are a troubled seven-year-old couple, while Ellie (Fanta Barrie) searches for her next sweetheart.

Brig (Mariah Louca), a transsexual, and Fi (Kiruna Stamell), a short person, have a budding friendship and begin to feel that they could belong in the choir.

Connie wants the band to perform on the main stage at Pride – as the only lesbian choir in the country. They gain a place, but an unfortunate incident shatters their fragile identity. They are banned for life and stalked on social networks.

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

Eventually, the love of singing brings the group together. In Hannah Hauer-King’s assured production, it is the magnificent harmonies that resonate after the last encore.

Until June 11