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Love Song To Lavender Menace

From 11 critic and 34 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Entertaining, Confusing

About the show

This comic and moving play about Scotland's radical, lesbian, gay, and feminist bookshop began in the cloakroom of Scotland's first gay nightclub. More…

In 1982, two friends Bob and Sigrid opened Lavender Menace on Edinburgh’s Forth Street. On the eve of the shop’s 5th birthday, sales assistants Paul and David take a look back at its origins, its importance, its celebration of queer culture, and how things have changed. An exploration of the love and passion it takes to make something happen and the loss that is felt when you have to let it go.

Part of Soho Playhouse's 2018 Fringe Encore Series.

Lavender After Dark

"Ley’s lively, delightful comedy-drama...The real-life backstory behind ‘Lavender Menace’, combined with playwright’s earnest exploration of the unique friendship between Lewis and Glen, is the most fascinating story of all...The play offers a poignant yet often hilariously funny look at the atmosphere of gay male life in an pre-Internet era...Funny, high-spirited, moving, and historically important, 'Love Song to Lavender Menace' is a story that needs to be told.” Full Review

The Scotsman

for a previous production “Hilarious, heartfelt, and provocative...Ley’s script achieves a deft and sophisticated balance of subjects and registers, shedding light on queer experience with humour, warmth, passion, and complexity...It’s a play that insists on the joy of the unexpected, the strange fluidity of time, the power of storytelling, and the ecstasy of radical culture...Far from sentimental nostalgia...a reminder of how precious and precarious spaces of real difference truly are.” Full Review


for a previous production “’Lavender Menace’ was the legendary LGBTQ book shop, and this hugely enjoyable production pays loving tribute to the shop...Not a dull moment...The play is also a love song to literature and to gay spaces where we could feel safe and less alone...The sub plot of a closeted married man felt a little overwhelming...However, it makes the point about the importance of a safe place very well. This is a wonderful, celebratory LGBTQ play.” Full Review

The Wee Review

for a previous production “The dynamic relationship between Lewis and Glen is at the heart of ‘Love Song to Lavender Menace’...They riff off each other and indulge themselves in nostalgia and over the top performance as they recount tales of love, dancing, and activism...Ley has crafted a script filled with humour, character, and spirit and it is his words that empahasise the aforementioned dynamism between the two performers...’Lavender Menace’ is a standout.” Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "Their slight fictional romance is just just enough to sustain Ley’s leaps into history, literature, time travel and LGBT lives...It is all very meta, and Ley makes necessarily heavy use of this material, although Ros Philips’ playful direction succeeds in showing much more than might be expected. McVarish and Reid launch into a blaze of caricatures, all based on fact and presented with a hearty twist...A thoroughly entertaining and important piece of LGBT social history." Full Review


for a previous production "Writer James Ley has really captured a special moment in the city’s history...This was a really significant time for the LGBT community...something that both Ley and Philips portray brilliantly throughout the show...While the ending of the play may be a little predictable, there’s a collective burst of happiness when it arrives...'Love Song to Lavender Menace' really is something special. A beautiful, heart-warming and funny show that’s a real gem of the Fringe this year." Full Review

Broadway Baby

for a previous production “Ley’s script is quite simply a joy...He brings a superb sense of camp charm and biting wit that makes every line of dialogue positively sing whilst embedding the story with a true sense of heart and emotional depth...An incredibly intelligent and magnificently reflexive exploration of the power of gay fiction...All of this is complemented by two magnificent performances...A show that is kind, that celebrates and understands the deep complexity of the gay experience.” Full Review

Glasgow Theatre Blog

for a previous production “This is a tiny slice of life and because of that, all the more engaging and relatable. While the tone can be almost flippant...its serves as a timely reminder of the groundwork that has gone in to raising the profile of the LGBTIQ community...Charming, amusing, though-provoking, and laugh-out-loud funny. A worthwhile work, written and performed in such a way that it will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.” Full Review

Edinburgh Guide

for a previous production “In Borgesian non-linear style, Ley has created a narrative that allows Reid and McVarish to explore a spectrum of characters...A thoroughly entertaining play that’s chock full of local references but ones informed by wider and bigger issues. Has a slight ‘hand knitted’ feel but is none the worse for that...Radical and politically aware though it is, most of the play focused on gay men with the other 50% of the gay population being somewhat underrepresented." Full Review

The List

for a previous production “Eschews any kind of schmaltz. Ley's script, and McVarish and Reid's performances, understand that moments of passion shine brighter when contrasted with a hint of darkness...’Lavender Menace’ expertly provides...a small dose of the ecstasy that the bookshops patrons must have felt on discovering knowledge previously denied to them...An ode to the power of solidarity and a tribute not just to the bookshop that inspired it but LGBT spaces the world over as well.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production “Ley’s funny new play celebrating the Edinburgh bookshop that was a lifeline for the gay community...A love song to a moment in time...Philips’s production is sparky and good-humoured, Reid and McVarish showing sharp comic timing as they resist the cliche of the tragic gay narrative arc and the equally predictable gay love story. As a play, it is modest in its scope, but it claims a piece of recent history with zest, compassion, and due reverence to the power of the printed word.” Full Review

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if you love LGBTQ history, funny and profound dialogue, great acting.

Don't see it if you are not too fond of minimal set and non linear storytelling confuses you.

Also I love books and I can still remember that feeling of wonderment and j... Read more Read less

Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you have a connection to gay literature or have lived though the 80s

Don't see it if don't like theatre with a gay theme

Funny, Touching, Political, Queer, Historical

See it if you'd like to have a laugh at the ways of gay boys in 1980s Edinburgh & at the same time learn something about an emerging culture.

Don't see it if you have American ears & are unwilling to make an effort to understand English with a Scottish accent, or are averse to homo history.

Also I loved this show & the 2 young men who performed it. It was very funn... Read more Read less

Delightful, Funny, Great acting, Must see, Relevant

See it if you enjoy meta narratives brilliantly employed to illustrate identity issues; entertaining and touching personalized history-telling

Don't see it if you have trouble following non-linear storytelling and actors playing different characters (though all are well telegraphed visually)

Also a beautifully written play about the living history of the LGBTQ commu... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you are interested in LGBT history and an offbeat romance.

Don't see it if you want to see a play with a linear plot and realistic scenery.

Entertaining, Great acting, Hilarious, Edgy, Confusing

See it if you like lgbtq themes and over the top gay (but not drag) characters, with a hint of homage to the 80's & the british is fun for most part.

Don't see it if you don't like any of the above and could get lost/confised in some dated references & british humor. But seeing the 2 actors alone was fun.

Scottish charmers in a comic tour of 80s gay lit

See it if Gay bookshop in the basement of Fire Island, a gay nightclub in 80s Edinburgh. Two fine actors in fun, frenetic colloquy of gay life and lit

Don't see it if you're not high on gay theater or Scottish accents. Two very smart gay boys try to make a go of a radical gay bookshop in Thatcher-era UK.

Also Two fine Scottish actors -- tall, thin Pierce Reid as Lewis and shorte... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Enchanting

See it if you like nostalgia and history being told in an entertaining manner

Don't see it if you have no imagination and are afraid of Virginia Woolf

Clever, Delightful, Engaging, Great acting, Refreshing

See it if you'd like to see a poignant, playful homage to the 1st Scottish LGBT bookshop as told by 2 charming lads in a refreshing, original play.

Don't see it if you don't like 80s dance music; you have no interest in LGBTQ themes/history; you are completely unfamiliar with James Baldwin.

Also This was such a lovely surprise. It's a smart, literate & entertaining... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You have an interest in LGBTQ issues, especially if you were around in the 80’s, or if you like small plays that say a lot with a little.

Don't see it if You have no interest in LGBTQ themed works or small shows working on a budget.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you like character driven pieces, if you are interested in LGBTQ history/issues

Don't see it if you want plays that are strictly linear

Entertaining, Relevant

See it if You care about LGBTQ history.

Don't see it if You only like larger productions. Don't like shows dealing with LGBTQ+ stories.

Clever, Entertaining, Quirky, Absorbing, Delightful

See it if you like LGBTQ themed theater with a touch of LGBTQ history

Don't see it if you can't deal with non-linear narrative type plays or are looking for fancy sets and plots.

Also This play was a bit of a surprise. I wanted to see it because of the h... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Quirky, Uneven

See it if you enjoy a quick and absorbing LGBT story

Don't see it if you need production values, big sets etc - or a fully realized production.


See it if you're gay or familiar with gay lit or like gay romance or hidden history. Cast of 2 is likeable.

Don't see it if you're not familiar with gay book titles as you may not know what they're talking about; you don't like 2 character plays, no set, gay theme

Also This is one of those plays where it helps to sit up front so you can m... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you want a fun, intelligent take on what queer spaces mean to their inhabitants.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with plays about gay men, or hate Scottish accents.

Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Clever

See it if Two Scots bond over gay lit and the demise of their book shoppe. Necessary long monologues to develop closeted counter character. Smart.

Don't see it if Two actors playing five characters aren't distinct enough and that leads to time shift confusion. Stereotypes. Simple set. Gen Adm.

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy two-handers, light-hearted humor and historical fact and fiction.

Don't see it if The idea of romance between two men is anathema to you. Mildly bawdy humor is also on display.

Resonant, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if You enjoy LGBT history as seen through the eyes of Scotish Gays in the late 20th century.

Don't see it if You strongly dislike LGBT themes or Scotish accents.

Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You like funny thoughful stories with gay characters.

Don't see it if you don't like seeing gay stories and drama.

Cute, Nostalgic, Confusing, Dizzying

See it if you have a connection with Edinborough and/or the Scottish gay scene of the 1980s... or you're interested in getting a glimpse of it.

Don't see it if Non-linear narrative confuses you, you have trouble understanding Scottish accents, gay history doesn't interest you

Also I did enjoy the play, though I must say that there were major portions... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Confusing, Quirky, Refreshing, Resonant

See it if You like intimate stories about someone's love of a moment in time. You enjoy silly banter, fun dialogue, and heartfelt moments

Don't see it if Occasionally it was a little confusing as to where they were in time and space. They would shift in the narrative, not always clearly.

Funny, Ambitious, Confusing, Entertaining, High nrg

See it if you're drawn to stories of LGBT history esp from other parts of the world. An engaging, if not predictable two-hander by a charming cast.

Don't see it if you're easily confused. The multiple characters portrayed are not clearly defined/performed and the nonlinear plot gets even muddier.

Entertaining, Absorbing, Relevant, Slow, Delightful

See it if If have interest in LGBTQ history. Writing is good and actors are delightful.

Don't see it if If you are homofobic and like musicals.

Confusing, Funny, Quirky, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if you want a window into 1980's gay history with a fun take that you may not be aware of or that may rekindle your feelings for that time.

Don't see it if you expect perfection as this is a fringe show, done fairly well with light props in a basic set. Scottish accents may interfere with grasp.

Cast & Creatives (1)

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