In 1975, Inter-Action co-produced with Gay Sweatshop the first-ever season of gay plays in the UK. The play season entitled ‘Homosexual Acts’ was performed at the Ambiance lunch-time theatre club at the Almost Free Theater on Rupert Street.
The previous year Inter-Action had staged ‘The Women’s Season’ of plays which had inspired The Women’s Theatre Group (now Sphinx) and the Women’s Company. Motivated by their success, the company advertised for gay writers and actors to take part in a season of gay plays with the intention of forming a company. After several meetings, a group began to form that would go on to co-produce a season with Inter-Action on the theme of homosexuality. From this group Gay Sweatshop was formed. The founding members included Drew Griffiths, Alan Pope, Roger Baker, Alan Wakeman, Laurence Collinson, John Roman Baker and Gerald Chapman. Roger Baker describes why the group decided on the name Sweatshop:
‘During the last few years some efforts have been made to relate gay activism and the theatre, notably with a street theatre group formed out of the Gay Liberation Front. But enthusiasm, stamina and personnel tend to evaporate which is why we called our outfit a Sweatshop – to indicate, if nothing else, it would be hard work. ‘
Three plays were initially selected for the season entitled Homosexual Acts. The group decided that all the writers and directors must be gay and that all the plays should be new British plays, but this was changed later on with the inclusion of the Robert Patrick and Martin Sherman plays. Although all the writers were men, two out of three plays had female characters. Homosexual Acts was a hit: audiences queued around the block and the company was asked to write more plays for an extended season at the Almost Free Theatre, followed by a lunch time season at the ICA. Over 19 weeks the company performed to over 8,000 people and a further 7,000 at the ICA.
The chosen plays were:
Limitations by John Roman Baker
Ships by Alan Wakeman
Thinking Straight by Laurence Collinson
Passing By by Martin Sherman
One Person by Robert Patrick
Fred and Harold by Robert Patrick
The Haunted Host by Robert Patrick
Five of the plays were published in Homosexual Acts by Inter-Action Inprint, London.