Love Song to Lavender Menace at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Fifty years after the LGBT community in New York fought for acceptance in the Stonewall riots, the Lyceum has been paying homage to Edinburgh’s own pioneering spirit with the restaging of James Ley’s heartfelt story of Scotland’s first gay and lesbian bookshop.

The Lavender Menace, in Forth Street, served the LGBT community for 15 years, until the 1990s, and Ley’s production, sensitively directed by Ros Philips, charts the history of the shop and some of its customers as assistant Lewis packs up the books for the very last time.

Love Song to Lavender Menace is a concise chronicle of what life was like for homosexuals in the Eighties. Fire Island, a gay disco on Princes Street, and now, ironically, the home of Waterstone’s Bookshop, was the hub, but for those afraid of being seen to be gay, the Lavender Menace was a ‘safe space’, being that it was in a basement up a side street off Broughton Street.

The production is driven by Pierce Reid as Lewis and Matthew McVarish as his friend Glen. Both are engaging characters as they reminisce, and flirt with each other, but they also have their work cut out, playing a whole myriad of roles, from the sad married father of two who emerges occasionally from the shadows, to ‘Lothian’s finest’, a strapping policeman who discovers his sexuality in Fire Island. The pace is fast and there is a rapport between the two, while designer Mamoru Iriguchi's bookshelves, at first looking like chalk board drawings, are a nice touch when the books are backlit and then slowly disappear as Lewis continues his packing.

There are lots of references known only to locals but the story is universal. It’s presented in a very entertaining way, with music and lots of humour; a fun way of dealing with a serious subject, and something which has to be and is being told, from its beginnings in the Lyceum’s rehearsal studio, through the Fringe and onto New York, and now it’s being made into a film – it will be good to see all the characters played in this two-hander come to life.

Image: Aly Wright