Review, by Tony Fenwick
The veteran actor, campaigner and drag / cabaret artist Better Bourne is celebrating his 7oth year with a triumphal show A Life in Three Acts, which he brought from the Edinburgh Festival and now performs at The Soho Theatre. It provides an essential look into a gay man’s life in the latter half of the twentieth century.
The play is in the format of a broadcast interview, with Mark Ravenhill as the interviewer and Bourne as the interviewee. Ravenhill’s questions are presumably pre-ordained and scripted, whilst Bourne uses a song-sheet for prompts so he can give full answers. In partial drag with make-up, he describes events throughout his life with passion and enthusiasm, referring to pictures that appear in the background and occasionally bursting into the odd recital. At one point we hear a worn recording of his mother singing!
He describes his family with candour and then goes on to talk about his friends, the protests, The Blue Lips Cabaret days, the squats, the sex and the drugs. As he brings his heady youth to life the photos behind add clarity, showing first, what a good looking young man he was and, second, what fun life could be when homosexuals were outlawed and marginalised, despite the obvious dangers.
The evening becomes much more sombre, however, when Bourne speaks of those who lost during the AIDS epidemic and describes his anger at the initial silence around it; a silence that cost so many lives.
Overall, though, the audience leaves feeling that Bourne’s life has so far been a happy and successful one, with many landmarks and achievements along the way. Bourne is almost a contemporary of Joe Orton and this is a must see for those who want a first hand account of how we came to be where we are now.
Bette Bourne: A Life in Three Acts can be seen at The Soho Theatre in Dean Street at 7.30pm till the end of February