Belles

Belles (BBC2) production photo

Television play, transmitted in May, 1983 on BBC2 as part of the Screen 2 series. Directed by Paul Seed. Produced by AndreƩ Molyneux.

The Play:

Two drag artists are booked mistakenly to perform at the anniversary celebrations of night-club at a small seaside hotel. Despite the mix-up, the club owner agrees to let them perform. But one of the duo is undergoing a personal crisis in his life and, after a clash with the homophobic club manager, he decides to confront the audience’s expectations.

Background:

The idea for the play came from my experiences in a dress hire shop where I worked with a number of out of work actors. Some of them only performed as panto dames once a year or did the occasional drag act in small venues but they all managed to retain their pride and sense of professionalism.

The play was originally mostly about my own disillusionment with performing but when I came to re-develop it I wanted to push the idea further – towards an examination of “drag” itself (still a very British phenomenon) and the strange fascination the androgynous has for us. Films like “Performance” and Fellini’s “Satyricon” were an undoubted influence, as was Trevor Griffiths “Comedians”.

The script was heavily cut for production and much of its intended subtlety went by the board. Pressures of shooting meant the poor actor who played Michael got only one take for his crucial climactic scene which in turn was trimmed down until it became more of a crude confrontation than the dangerous toying with the audience I’d imagined.

Despite all of this – and its undeniable jejeune qualities – I still count myself lucky to have got it made. It’s hard to imagine in these days of accountant led scheduling anyone producing something like it now.

The full text is available in Acrobat format (93k) by clicking here. Right click or Control-click (Mac) and choose “Download to Disk”

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