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We Raise Our Hands in the Sanctuary review at the Albany, London – ‘moving and impassioned’

Jordan Ajadi in We Raise Our Hands in the Sanctuary at the Albany. Photo: Leon Csernohlavek
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It’s 1981 and London’s gay club scene is a refuge for stage electrics student Joseph and the only place ambitious would-be DJ Michael wants to be. When they meet drag artist Brandi and Paul, a no-nonsense club promoter, it changes their lives forever.

Daniel Fulvio and Martin Moriarty’s We Raise Our Hands in the Sanctuary has emerged from Hatched, the Albany’s artist support and development programme. It’s an impassioned look at black gay culture and the music venues that were the cathedrals of an LGBT generation.

Fulvio and Moriarty throw everything at the stage, as dancers Jordan Ajadi and Shawn Willis sum up the pulse and the mood of a decade on Ingrid Hu’s colourful cruciform set.

Mina Aidoo’s choreography is sinewy and beautiful at times. Carl Mullaney as Brandi gives a great flourish of a performance, and Dean Graham is gruffly believable as Paul.

But the show’s atmosphere is hampered by some awkward lighting and sound cues, over-long speeches and dialogue that buckles under all of the 1980s references. As Fulvio and Moriarty try to cover as many of the issues of the decade in their script as possible, including HIV, the storytelling stumbles.

However, while the production is patchy, its sincerity shines. Fulvio and Moriarty have turned a spotlight on an important step in the evolution of the British LGBT scene – and the contribution made by black gay people – that is sorely under represented on stage. At its best, it’s a moving tribute to an era.

 

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Verdict
Moving and potent new writing about black gay culture and the British club scene in the 1980s
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