Queer performers highlight loneliness

Loneliness is the reoccurring theme in Crying Shame. Pic: Stanley Arts

The feelings of being alone, disrupted and distracted are being explored in a series of performances by four queer artists and queer-led companies at Stanley Arts in Croydon this spring.

The funding for the performances, supported by Stanley Arts and Raze Collective, comes from the seed commissions of £5000 as part of Croydon’s year as London Borough of Culture in 2023.

Through a variety of art forms, the artists explore the theme of identity and touch on subjects such as gender, faith, queer arts and mental wellbeing.

Stanley Arts told ELL that the four commission winners were chosen by a panel made up of colleagues from Stanley Arts and RAZE collective, and was based on the strength of their ideas and their creative track record as artists.


The first of the four performances, Pigeons, was created by Julie Cunningham & Company, and took place at the end of February. It was a 30-minute dance performed by Jules, Harry and Yu-Chien, alongside the music of Julius Eastman.

‘Pigeons’ performed by Julie Cunningham & Company. Pic: Karoline Brandslet

“Through movement, we explore feelings of being alone and together, disruption and distraction. In relation to the music, we are moving almost relentlessly, perhaps irritated by our own need to keep going”, the groups description of the dance reads.

When asked what pigeons and queerness have in common, creator Jules told ELL that both pigeons and queer people are outcasts in society. She then described how they were seen as a nuisance to humans.

“This mirrors how marginalised people disrupt our lives, showing us uncomfortable truths. Queerness disrupts in a similar way – disrupting the norms by the way we try to exist in the world”, their programme says.

“And the world chooses to disrupt us back, by excluding, denying our existence. Yet we find a way to continue, to keep moving and living, much in the way pigeons do.”

Finding the right words

The next performance, called Finding the Right Words by Debris Stevenson, can be seen at Stanley Arts venue in South Norwood on March 15. It’s the writer, poet and actor’s dyslexic-artistic exploration of being diagnosed with ADHD.

The evening consists of poetry, movement and music. “It’s a reclamation of language for the neuro-spicey experience from the seasoned perspective”, the programme reads.

Debris Stevenson will perform her poems. Pic: Stanley Arts

For Stevenson, neuroqueerness is the act of diverging from the “norm”, the status quo and what she was told she should be.

“It’s following the weird, wild, meandering parts of myself that society once convinced me to fight.”

More information on Finding the Right Words and tickets can be found here.

Crying Shame

From March 19-21, the queer theatre collective Sweet Beef will perform their promenade play, Crying Shame.

The description of the show reads: “It’s cabaret. A wellness journey. A 10-step programme. All about loneliness…”

“In a dusty, dazzling dreamscape you’ll encounter washed-up cabaret acts, filthy lip-syncs, and a suite of lonely queer characters.”

Audiences will be guided on a theatrical journey through the building while the story unfurls around them, which will end – if Sweet Beef is to be believed – with onlookers having to come to terms with loneliness.

“You’ll have to look each other in the eye, and admit: I am lonely. But I am not alone. Because you’re here. We’re here. We’re all here together.”

More information on Crying Shame and tickets can be found here.

Finding Olokun

Multidisciplinary artist and cultural curator Danny Bailey will perform his dark comedy Finding Olokun on March 20 and March 21.

It will delve into the enduring impacts of colonisation, and how this process colonisation has affected the black diaspora’s sense of self, aspirations, relationships, purpose faith and eternity.

“If baptism is rebirth, who gets left behind in death” Danny Bailey asks. Pic: Stanley Arts.

To escape the challenges of being Black in today’s society, seek financial gain and freedom from racism, and the Christian promised vision of paradise, main character Bussa forms a romantic bond with ‘White Jesus’, the programme says.

However, upon being faced with the reality of organised Christianity and its implications on his Black identity, he’s confronted with whether embracing ‘White Jesus’ invites the very things he wishes to escape from into his eternity.

“Now lost in spiritual exile, he encounters Olokun, a powerful Orisha who reveals the strength of Bussa’s heritage and the truth about his identity in the intricate tapestry of life.”

More information on Finding Olokun and tickets can be found here.

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