The Beat of Our Hearts, written by South West-based playwright Natalie McGrath, will be staged as part of LGBT History Month in February.

New play co-created with people living in the South West shows long history of LGBT loneliness in the region

A new play co-created by people living in the South West shows the long history of LGBTQIA+ loneliness and belonging in the region.

Mistreatment and marginalisation from society has meant LGBTQIA+ communities have created their own spaces for solidarity, creativity, and dialogue.  

The Beat of Our Hearts, written by South West-based playwright Natalie McGrath, will be staged as part of LGBT History Month in February.

Project lead, Dr Charlotte Jones from the University of Exeter, worked with organisations and individuals in the South West to develop and stage the new production, as well as to discuss the complex issue of exclusion within LGBTQIA+ communities. The play was written following a series of creative workshops held in collaboration with the Intercom Trust, a leading charity in the South West supporting LGBTQ+ people.

The play tells the story of four friends who come together in an empty library, under a blanket of watchful stars, after suffering a bitter loss – something precious has been taken from them. But the discovery of an old sepia photograph changes everything. A spark is rekindled and an idea blossoms that will shine a whole new light on the small LGBTQ+ community in their quiet seaside town.

Valentine, Luca, Dove and Quill each share their own personal experiences of struggle and acceptance, friendship and isolation, despair and irrevocable hope.

Writer, Natalie McGrath said: “We're at an extraordinary stage of this project's life.  Rehearsals are taking place. Actors are learning lines.  Director Scott Hurran and the wider creative team are beautifully creating the world of the play, making design dreams a reality.  The characters from the script are vividly coming to life before my very eyes. It's a huge moment for all of us who have been working away on this project for a long time making it happen.  It's also a massive moment of pride for me to be part of a project that supports, explores and celebrates the lives of LGBTQIA+ people in the South West.”

Academic Lead, Dr Charlotte Jones, added: “It’s been a pleasure to work with Natalie on this script over the last few years, exploring how our research communicated with her work, and to watch as her powerful writing took shape. To be joined by such a large and talented team and cast for this project has also been incredibly exciting – I can’t wait to see Natalie’s work on the Northcott’s stage, and to celebrate such an unusual and important local collaboration. These are LGBTQIA+ stories that need to be heard.”

The play was developed in partnership with the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre and the Intercom Trust, and produced by Exeter Northcott Theatre, with support from the UK Research and Innovation’s Arts and Humanities Research Council and Arts Council England.

The performance will take place at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter from Thursday 3 Feb 2022 to Saturday 5 Feb 2022. Tickets are on sale now for £12 at full price or £10 for concessions. There will be a free post-show panel discussion on the Friday evening chaired by Professor Jana Funke from the University of Exeter. The discussion will focus on how regional theatre can be better for LGBTQIA+ people and hopes for local LGBTQIA+ communities in 2022. Some performances will also include audio description and BSL interpretation.

Over the past three years, Dr Jones has been working alongside colleagues Dr Fred Cooper and Dr Richard Vytniorgu at Exeter’s Wellcome Centre, researching loneliness in Britain, and together they have identified numerous poignant reflections on historical and contemporary experiences of LGBTQIA+ loneliness and belonging. They hope that this research, alongside the project’s recent creative workshops, will contribute to a new heritage of LGBTQIA+ community stories, explored through the performance.

Date: 20 January 2022

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