Review: Jackie Kay, Young Enigma and guests @ Queer Contact 2014

“You have a girlfriend? Oh, so you mean you are lesbian? Okay, so who is the man when you make sex?

“His eyes have faded to a sleazy shimmer as my Nigerian priest father imagines a forbidden fantasy playing out before him – I have always wondered who the man is when lesbians make sex…”

Thus spoke the enigmatic Jackie Kay when recounting her first meeting with her long-lost father after tracing him to holy African soil.

Her adoptive mother was a Glaswegian communist. Her biological father considered her a sin from a previous life, best forgotten. 

Contact Theatre rounded off its Queer Contact 2014 festival in celebration of LGBT History Month with an evening of spoken word poetry performances based on the theme of identity.

Young LGBT writers collective Young Enigma curated the show headlined by the award-winning Jackie Kay, Patience Agbabi and Gerry Potter who turned the spoken word into outspoken words. 

Never ones to shy away from controversial themes, the poets and performers were on tip-top form recounting the tragic, desperate memories of homophobic hatred and coming-out with glittery, camp sensationalism and tender honesty – all interspersed with many suggestions on how to make the most of one’s orgasms. 

Jackie Kay recounted her traumatic first-meeting with her biological father in an excerpt from her new novel Red Dust Road. She set the scene: 2003, Nigeria. A 73-year-old preacher father sweats more from the awkward tension than the African heat as he is confronted by the lesbian daughter he wanted to forget. 

Kay’s lover of 15 years, the current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, had just told her she didn’t love her anymore. It was a tough week for Kay and it was about to get tougher.

The result? Of course the Glaswegian atheist got utterly trollied on cheap white wine, whilst her father tried to chant the demons out of her, then wrote a book about the whole thing. 

She traces the umbilical yearnings of the birth parents who abandoned her with hilarious memories of sexual self-discovery – all interspersed with tender verse.

Her first novel, Trumpet, published in 1998 won the Guardian fiction prize and in 2006 she was awarded an MBE for services to literature. 

Queer Contact features the best of UK and international talent celebrating the fields of performance, music, spoken word and theatre. 

Kay was joined by a stellar line-up as Young Enigma performed throughout the set and offered a fresh and creative response to the theme of identity.

There was a Magritte-inspired surrealist set – complete with at least four bowler hats, an homage to all things fierce and painful tales of abuse. 

Kay’s readings set the tone for an honest and open evening with the poets baring their souls – much to the tears and bladder-weakening hilarity that affected the audience. 

Her co-performers offered differing insights on the LGBT theme.

Gerry Potter, the multi-faceted deeply passionate poet, playwright, actor and director had the crowd in hysterics as his animated performances rivaled those of Michael McIntyre. 

He recounted memories of growing up on a rough estate whilst being protected by ‘the dead hard scally girls’ with his poems Tiffany Bling and The Effeminate. 

Patience Agbabi’s poetry took a more traditional form and explored the binaries of racial and sexual stereotyping in her gender-identity themed work. 

All in all, Queer Contact rounded up this year’s events with a stunning string of performances that explored complex themes in relatable ways. 

In a sad irony, the awkward white wine that Kay shared with her father in Nigeria was mirrored in the copious amounts drunk throughout the evening by her gleeful audience who lapped up her every utterance with each sip. 

The same gleeful audience that accepts her and adores her, despite her father and the hatred of the homophobic world. 

Picture courtesy of Chris Donia, with thanks.

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