Letter of support from Beatrix Campbell

Sent from journalist and writer Beatrix Campbell to Monstrous Regiment after a performance of Time Gentlemen Please  was stopped in Leeds by members of the audience:

‘Dear Monstrous Regiment,

This is a fan letter which I’m writing, having been stunned to hear the news that people broke up your show in Leeds the other night.

I’d at first assumed, clearly quite wrongly, that it was some National Front or Festival of Light types, being puritanical thugs, and was then stunned again to hear it was feminists who did it.

And that made me think a bit about why I’d so enjoyed your show.

Now I’d like to tell you why I liked it, if it helps, because you were probably shattered by the Leeds experience. The first thing to say is that I’ve seen it a couple of times, with largely feminist – lesbian and heterosexual – audiences who loved it. Actually loved it. Why? Firstly I think because it is very polished, very funny and very radical. And these days you’ve got to go a long way to get that combination.

The second reason I think is because it takes sexual politics back into a idiom which is typical, i.e. it takes it out of the ghettos of men’s culture, and takes it out of the feminist ghetto too, where too often we make massive and inept assumptions about how the sexual contradictions are lived among masses of people, and about how far we in the Women’s Movement have actually changed anything. I don’t think that’s true of the mainstream of the WLM [Women’s Liberation Movement], which is much more rooted in reality; I suppose I’d count myself as part of that – and indeed I’d count the Monstrous Regiment sisters as part of that Women’s Liberation mainstream as well.

So it was an enormous relief to have a feminist critique of sexuality presented in a form that was a pleasure both to self-conscious feminists, and to women who’d not identify themselves in that way, but who nevertheless are fighting it out.
Another important reason was that it was about heterosexuality. By which I mean it made heterosexuality problematic. The absence of a full homosexual dimension is, I think, a problem.

I think homosexuality would have been incredibly difficult to present in this show because for it to have been problematic in an equivalent way to heterosexuality would be extremely hard to get right; in other words it wouldn’t have been much cop to have nasty old heterosexuality having its guts ripped out in Time Gentlemen Please, only to have homosexuality immunised from criticism. I don’t think it would have been appropriate for a company like you, however, to take on such a critique, not at this stage anyway when gay politics and homosexuality in general in this country is still relatively besieged, still a fragile flower. If you’d had a confident gay caucus in the company then that would have been different.

One of the problems with the show in my view is in fact that the references to homosexuality are rather too bland and sentimental. I’d rather have not had them, I think. Much happier with the querying and parodying of heterosexuality – this is the first show I’ve seen that dares to take that on.’

Taken from Gillian Hanna’s book Monstrous Regiment (Nick Hern Books 1991) reproduced here courtesy of Nick Hern Books, Chris Bowler, Gillian Hanna and Mary McCusker.

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