In 1975 Gay Sweatshop was booked to perform Mister X in Golder’s Green Unitarian Church. The church hall was too small for the audience, the Church’s pastor had decided to stage the show in the Church itself. Mister X opens with a scene of teenage boys simulating masturbation. As soon as the play began, a local Vicar, Revd Edward Walton from the Christ Church in Hendon, stood up and started to proclaim the wrath of God on the actors producing placards they’d brought with them which said things like ‘Man Shall Not Lie with Man’. The company repeatedly tried to start the show with the backing of the majority of the audience. Eventually the Revd Walton was asked to leave but his wife and friends stayed to shout at the actors for another 20 minutes.
The Hampstead and Highgate Express ran with the headline: ‘Vicar in Gay Play Rumpus – Heckling Minister Ejected During Show at Church’ (14th October 1975)
The Revd Walton is quoted in the article: ‘I had read the play was going to involve four letter words and was obviously going to be of a rather unpleasant nature. … What annoyed me most was that this was going on in a church, where on Sunday people would be praying to God and worshipping. … But the play was worse than I thought. As soon as it started, four men were on the stage, one said, ‘Masturbation is such fun’ and they all sat down and masturbated. I was so horrified that I stood up and said I was not going to stand that in church and the minister asked me to leave. … As I left there was a round of applause, not for me standing up for what I thought decent but the people turning me out. … I have no objection to homosexuals, I feel rather sorry for them. If it had been a sympathetic play dealing with their problems I would have thought fair enough.’
He rejected allegations that he was narrow-minded. ‘My daughter was a bunny girl and is now a nightclub
singer. I danced on the stage at our church’s 90th anniversary celebration four years ago,’ he said. ‘I have no objection to that. My objection is to obscenity and blasphemy.’
The newspaper printed the response from Gay Sweatshop and accompanied it with a picture of the Vicar with his daughter dressed as a Bunny Girl.
‘Your reporter gave readers the impression that our actors performed authentic masturbation on stage. This was not so. … That contentious opening scene, for example, tackles immediately one of the male homosexual’s first problems when, about adolescence, he discovers that his friends’ erotic images are female (a Bunny Girl for example) while his own are male. Those of us who work in the helping services, as well as parents of gay boys, know too well what confusion and distress this can cause. … To produce a bunny from his berretta is scarcely a guarantee of open-mindedness since the Bunny Girls represent one of the most blatant examples of commercial exploitation and objectification of women: the unacceptable face of the tolerant society, more offensive than a few commonplace expletives.’ Roger Baker, Drew Griffiths, Gay Sweatshop
Also in the paper was the response from the local residents:
‘Mister X was a serious examination of the problems of a young homosexual ‘passing as straight.’ There was nothing exotic or salacious in it and it did not seek to exploit sex or people as sex objects.
A church should care about people, all people, irrespective of sex, age, race, sexual orientation, religious tradition or any other unimportant difference. Airing the concerns of a minority group is a very proper church function. Far too many people regard churches as ‘Thou shalt not’ places. That’s not a role for our congregation, we intend to remain a focus of genuine concern and a centre of liberal thought.’
Mrs Olive Thompson, Chairman. Golders Green, Unitarian Church.