Theater Review: “Nowt As Queer As Folk”, Starring Rohan Gotobed
Rohan Gotobed (young Sirius Black) produces and performs in a new play at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Now in its 71st year, the festival hosts over 3,000 shows across 300 venues in the Scottish capital, which J.K Rowling calls home. Nowt As Queer As Folk, written by Becky Pick and directed by Molly Farley, focuses on a tiny English village in the lead-up to the local gardening club election and the construction of a new housing development.
Gotobed is one of the artistic directors of Coast to Coast Theatre Company, which aims “to create conversations on local issues and to support local voices on national to global issues.” Cofounded by drama and English students at the University of East Anglia, Coast to Coast’s first play, About Lester, was written and directed by Gotobed. Nowt As Queer As Folk playwright Becky Pick grew up in a small village herself and witnessed the local reactions when new houses were built, inspiring her to explore “the views people have on change, even when they don’t know exactly what it entails.”
Clocking in at just 45 minutes, Nowt As Queer As Folk is a brief but riotous romp through small-town politics, romance, and family drama. The title comes from a Northern English saying, “There’s nowt so queer as folk,” meaning that there is nothing as strange as people, and was popularized by the 1999 British television series Queer As Folk. The play explores queerness in both sexuality and personality. A cast of eccentric characters chews the minimal scenery with their idiosyncratic tendencies. In a short speech that can perhaps be best described as pure Slytherpuff, Gotobed’s oddball Bernard takes his rightful place among a veritable smorgasbord of quirky personalities, including conspiracy theorist Bill (Alex Grauwiler) and charmingly – and woefully – naïve Judy (Nancy O’Melia).
While most of the play consists of snappy dialogue, displaying excellent comedic timing from the ensemble, it also revels in moments of melodrama and soliloquy. Fawlty Towers-style farce morphs into self-aware soap opera mawkishness and back again with dexterity. The intimate space and earnestness of the performance make the audience feel like a part of this little village and invested in its antics.
Gotobed reflects on the intensity and delight of working with such a cast of characters for the Fringe. Improvisation played a large part in character development, according to director Molly Farley, who enjoyed finding each character’s nuances and creating new backstories during rehearsals. The team reports that audiences have been recognizing characters from their own hometowns and hopes that this relatability will continue to resonate.
Nowt As Queer As Folk is running in Edinburgh at theSpace on North Bridge – Perth Theatre through August 25. Tickets can be purchased here.