An artist with something to say, and fearless in saying it.”….Marcus Dickey Horley, Curator, Tate Modern
A VERY Queer Nazi Faust, an experimental participatory performance created by Norfolk-based poet, artist, and disability rights campaigner, Vince Laws, highlights the plight of disabled people under the current Tory government. It was cast via social media and performed to great acclaim at Norwich LGBT+ Pride in 2017.
Funded on a shoestring, starring thirteen local legends and the DEAD PEOPLE DON’T CLAIMbanner, the piece was performed to great acclaim at Norwich LGBT+ Pride in 2017.
Now, with support from Unlimited, who support ambitious, creative projects by outstanding disabled artists and companies, there will be participatory workshops at Silver Road Community Centre in central Norwich during summer 2018, culminating in a special one off performance at the Norwich Arts Centre on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 8pm.
Poet John Faust is suicidal. His benefits have been stopped without warning, the bailiffs are due to evict him, his dog is in the vets dying, his car needs a new clutch, and he can’t finish his poetic masterpiece while the voices inside his head torment him.
In despair, John throws himself off Beeston Bump, Norfolk’s highest peak, clutching The Tragic True Life & Deserved Death of a Benefit Scrounger written by himself, but Lucifer won’t let him drown because she loves his book and wants a bigger part.
A Very Queer Nazi Faust highlights the plight of disabled people under the current Tory government, described as “economic murder” in the British Medical Journal, and as a “human catastrophe” by the United Nations.
The performance contains adult themes and language, suicidal thoughts, Lucifer, The Naked Abseilers and poetry, but no Nazis. Support from Unlimited will enable text projections by Andrew Day for greater accessibility, and a soundscape created by Dandelion Snowley.
“I deal with fluctuating health due to HIV, depression, and anxiety, and I know how much creative activity helps me,” said Vince. “You don’t need to be queer or disabled to take part, but people with disabilities are encouraged to get involved. Workshops/rehearsals will take place every Sunday afternoon/evening from June, Silver Road Community Centre, 34 Silver Rd, Norwich NR3 4TA, culminating in a performance at Norwich Arts Centre in September, as the official launch party of Norfolk Disability Pride & Independent Living Event 2018. Bravo!”
The workshops and performance may be photographed, filmed and live-streamed.
Commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Spirit of 2012. If you need help to take part, let Vince know, he’ll do his best to make it happen.
For more information, email: email@example.com
by Eli Lambe
CW; ableism, suicide, sanctions
Vince Laws’ protest-play, ‘A Very Queer Nazi Faust’ is the stunning result of ongoing development, lack of funding and an “angry depression diary”. It has been performed in a host of untraditional venues including: the streets of Birmingham during the Conservative Party Conference; outside the Houses of Parliament (whilst Ian Duncan-Smith was being interviewed); and, most recently, the Community Tent at Norwich’s ninth Pride celebration. Cast through social media, the performance was anarchically unpolished and filled with righteous, infectious anger. The roles of the “thirteen local legends” brought together in art and solidarity against “state sanctioned torture” were all filled by local queer and disabled activists. Although the title of the show was excluded from the official Norwich Pride 2017 programme, The Community Tent was still filled with an enthusiastic and engaged audience.
The roles of the “thirteen local legends” brought together in art and solidarity against “state sanctioned torture” were all filled by local queer and disabled activists
‘A Very Queer Nazi Faust’ began life as a “depression diary”, which would have been too expensive to publish (another example of barriers faced by disabled or otherwise marginalised authors and this kind of protest art) and developed into a play protesting against the press and government’s ongoing violence towards disabled people in the UK. After receiving some funding and support from Disability Arts Online and The Literary Consultancy, Laws gained “the confidence to build it into something” – and that something is truly incredible.
The “constantly evolving” play is an organic, poetic reimagining of Dr Faustus, with reference and rage woven throughout. It is uncompromising, unpatronizing and unsettling, opening with a striking monologue form Laws as the suicidal John Faust calling repeatedly for: “Relief! That’s all I want!” The first half takes the audience through an honest depiction of depression and suicidal thoughts in the face of a harsh bureaucracy bent on diminishing the will to live. The parade of demons following Jan MacLachlan’s Lucifer/ Mephistopheles provided apt and comedic representations of the forces at work.
The utterly accurate set of platitudes from the neurotypical Paris Psychologist were hilarious, and the whole play was wonderfully, unapologetically dirty.
The second half prominently features the greatest crochet shorts in the history of wool, and brought with it much of the comedy interspersed in the first half. The utterly accurate set of platitudes from the neurotypical Paris Psychologist were hilarious, and the whole play was wonderfully, unapologetically dirty. Whilst the second half was slightly more chaotic in terms of plot, the chaos felt natural and seemed to have an overall purpose, even if it was slightly hard to follow. Ending the performance with an audience-participatory chant of: “Dead people don’t claim! Eat the rich!” was a powerful move, and I can only imagine with glee how that must have sounded from outside The Community Tent!
There were a lot of very subtle, cleverly put together moments throughout the performance, slogans interspersed with props and worn by the performers brought the message of necessary and direct action back into view at any time you might forget it, and the camp, upbeat musical stylings worked well as a contrast by which to underline the seriousness of the subject. The occupation of political figures by members of the cast – Faust acting as Corbyn at one point, and Helen of Troy becoming the triple-breasted Pope, as well as a fantastically deadpan Theresa May – helped to realise the plot, and was simultaneously irreverent and biting. Vince Laws’ poetry background came through in the language of the play, and the incisive lines and rhythms of “Easy pickings. Cut. Cut. Cut” and “Death is What This Government Wants” were emphasised by their lyrical delivery. It was a joyous experience to see ideas forming on stage and being tested live; the audience was made to feel as much a part of the production as the cast.
It was a truly enjoyable and emotional experience, and everyone involved should be so, so, proud of themselves – for bringing it to Norwich Pride, for emphasising the need for queer disabled solidarity and for doing it in such a confronting and beautiful way. More information, videos and details of the cast and crew can be found in the Facebook Event Page.
Featured image of cast by Lucy Auger
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The play aims to highlight the plight of disabled humans under the current Tory government and the previous Tory /Lib Dem coalition. It features the DEAD PEOPLE DON’T CLAIM banner, and a host of local legends, telling ‘The Tragic True Life & Deserved Death of a Benefit Scrounger by Himself, John Faust’.
“I love it, John,” exclaims Lucifer, “but I think that title deserves a Dandy tweak?”
Faust’s benefits have been stopped without warning, he’s overdrawn, he can’t pay his rent, the bailiffs are coming, his car needs a new clutch, his dog’s at the vets with blood poisoning, the DWP brown envelopes keep piling up, in despair, Faust throws himself off Beeston Bump, but Lucifer won’t let him drown.
I thought long and hard about the title. I realise some people find the word ‘queer’ triggering, and I’m sorry if that upsets anyone on the day, that is not my intention. Context is king.
Queer is a more inclusive term, i.e. there are non-LGBT people who identify as queer. It can mean strange, different, other, and I think we queers have thoroughly reclaimed it by now.
The first people the Nazis killed systematically were disabled people, after demonising us as a burden on taxpayers in the press. Sound familiar? Look up Aktion T4. Under the programme certain German physicians were authorized to select patients “deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination” and then administer to them a ‘mercy death’.
Today, the United Nations has found the current UK Tory government ‘guilty of grave and systematic abuse of disabled people’s human rights’, twice. People are dying because of the way the benefit system is being used as a weapon against them. I feel like an enemy of the state because I have disabilities. Fuck that. ‘If the system cripples you, you must cripple the system!’ Oscar Wilde. This play is my way of fighting back.
Trigger Warning! Contains Adult themes and language, nudity, mental health, HIV, DWP Deaths, Lucifer, and poetry, but no Nazis.
Act 1 Monday 24 July 8pm at St Margaret’s Church of Art, Norwich, NR2 4AQ, duration 30 minutes, Free.
Act 1 & 2 (whole show) Pride Saturday 29 July 4pm in Big Tent on Chapelfield Gardens, duration 60 minutes, Free.
Act 2 Friday 4 August 8pm at St Margaret’s Church of Art, Norwich, NR2 4AQ, duration 30 minutes, Free.
Poet, artist and contrary queen, Vince Laws, is bringing his brand new play, A Very Queer Nazi Faust, to Norwich Pride 2017.
“The best theatre production you’ll see all year! Telling the sad story that faces so many of our most vulnerable citizens with fantastic wit and compelling drama.” Lewis Martin
“Innovative fearless & funny!” Trudy Howson, UK LGBT Poet Laureate
“Finish your book John, I love it! But I want a bigger part and a happy ending! Fearless storytelling. The performance in the church, especially, reminded me that theatre began in churches in England. And if ever we needed miracle plays, today is the time. Great writing. Great delivery. And never have chains been worn so stylishly.” Dugald Ferguson
Although the controversial title and theme were left out of the printed version of Norwich Pride’s programme, A Very Queer Nazi Faust will be performed in the big tent on Chapelfield Gardens at 4pm on Pride Saturday 29 July, and lasts about an hour. “Dramatic and hard hitting. A visual and sensory feast with a strong and topical message.” Nick O’Brien, Norwich Pride
“I loved it ❤ Jan McLachlan ⭐ Well written, totally got it. 👍 Left me wanting more”
A Very Queer Nazi Faust has been made on a shoestring budget, crowdfunding and enthusiasm. If you can’t make the show on Pride Saturday, you can see Act 1, 30 minutes, at the launch of the Pride Without Prejudice art show, at St Margaret’s Church of Art, Norwich, NR2 4AQ, on Monday 24 July, at 8pm. You can see Act 2, 30 minutes, at the closing party for Pride Without Prejudice art show, on Friday 4 August, at 8pm. All performances are free. Contains adult themes and language.
Great use of the space, imaginative choice of props, dramatic music, so not up-your-arse drama. Jacky Girling
To highlight Queer Solidarity with disabled people, Vince will be carrying the DEAD PEOPLE DON’T CLAIM banner at Norwich Pride, and anyone who wants to, is welcome to join him. Vince is also collaborating with artist and activist Lisa Mac to create 100 Triangles of Love, pink/black cardboard triangles to carry on the parade to highlight Queer Solidarity with People With Disabilities, and our shared history of oppression, and the ongoing oppression we face around the world. If you’d like to carry a Triangle of Love, or make your own and join us, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VinceLawsFaust/
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/236824953473669/?ref=br_tf
I found this Granite and Sunlight blog useful.
The pink triangle (German: Rosa Winkel) was one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, used to identify male prisoners who were sent there because of their homosexuality. Every prisoner had to wear a downward-pointing triangle on their jacket, the colour of which was to categorise them by “kind”. Other colors identified Jewish people (two triangles superimposed as a yellow star), political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses, “anti-social” prisoners, and others the Nazis deemed undesirable. Pink and yellow triangles could be combined if a prisoner was deemed to be gay and Jewish. Originally intended as a badge of shame, the pink triangle (often inverted from its Nazi usage) has been reclaimed as an international symbol of gay pride and the gay rights movement, and is second in popularity only to the rainbow flag. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_triangle
The black triangle was a badge used in Nazi concentration camps to mark prisoners as “asocial” or “arbeitsscheu” (work-shy). It was later adopted as a lesbian or feminist symbol of pride and solidarity, on the assumption that the Nazis included lesbians in the “asocial” category. More recently it has been adopted by UK disabled people’s organisations responding to increasing press allegations that disabled benefit recipients are workshy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_triangle_(badge)
2017 marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Peter Tatchell’s piece in The Guardian explains how painfully slow that progress has been