"Late night at the museum"
by Coco Hall for remotegoat on 30/11/09

Scrawny Cat's Unacknowledged Acts of Desire, a short play performed in a gallery at the V+A and telling the untold story behind some of the pictures, is exactly the sort of thing I'd like to see more of.

Part of Friday Late at the V+A, the theme of the evening was 'Making a Scene'; an evening to tap the surface of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer culture to celebrate making visible what for so long has been hidden. There were a number of performances, talks, and short films going on throughout the gallery, one of which was Unacknowledged Acts of Desire.

Two Victorian women, bustles rustling, appear on the stairs at the back of a gallery. What plays out is the fanciful story behind some of the pictures. The women meet, one of them falls passionately in love, the other more viscerally so. Their stories are told in a sort of loop, from scene to scene, as the secret relationship develops, ebbs and flows and then dies when they are spotted together.

The setting in the gallery is effective and added a sort of magical quality to the play; it was as if the ghosts of the pictures had come alive. A sweeping double staircase allows the lovers to disappear off between scenes, although at several points they were masked by one of the grand columns that are used to great effect in a garden scene.

The relationship is played beautifully by the two actresses, all swooshing skirts and clicking heels, in the lofty gallery space. The play's writing is subtle and never in-yer-face, and uses music and dance to great effect. At the end of the day it's a sweet, touching story about a lasting secret love, rather than a diatribe about sexuality.

The next Friday Late is on 29 January and the theme is a Renaissance Ball. On the strength of what I saw, the evening is well worth a visit.

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