Hannah Hauer-King, is director of The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs.
A new show by award-winning playwright Iman Qureshi coming to Soho Theatre’s main stage next month. Here is a Q&A with her.
The title for this play is an intriguing one. Tell us what The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs is about and who it is for?
Intriguing is a good word, it certainly calls for our attention!
The play is centred around a small lesbian community choir, who are offered an audition to sing at the mainstage at Pride, with some unexpected consequences.
The play looks at both the achievements and disappointments the choir experiences as they prepare for a performance of a lifetime, as well as the impact of male violence on queer women and women overall.
I think the play is for anyone willing to go on the ride to be honest.
It will have particular appeal for women, those who are allies or part of the LGBTQI+ community, and anyone who likes choir, singing and music!
Think the world of Calendar Girls and Stepping Out, with some tougher themes within.
It’s being billed as a play with songs. What does that mean?
Pretty much what it says on the tin! I suppose it’s a good way of distinguishing ourselves as not a musical – there’s no score or orchestra, it is for the most part a well made play, that includes actors singing.
I would say the music adds colour and emotion to the piece. The songs are all adaptations and re-workings of pre-existing music too, ranging from classical to more contemporary songs.
What drew you in to direct this production?
I’ve been curious for a while about questions like – why do lesbians and queer women have such a dearth of spaces they can go?
Why are they so invisible? And when lesbians do commune, why does it so often lead to disintegration or conflict? And The Ministry Of Lesbian Affairs is a play that is tackling these issues head on.
I also favour working with stories that include music and knowing this would be a show with a choir, I was excited to see what could be achieved through song.
I think the show will feel relatable for audiences far beyond the lesbian and queer women community.
What are you most enjoying about working on this show?
I’m lucky enough to have worked with the writer of the show, Iman Qureshi, from the piece’s inception.
Which means I have had the satisfying opportunity to see it from its genesis to a full-scale production.
It makes for a very collaborative process, where I feel in tune with what Iman and the show really needs to communicate.
I am also loving working with such a talented group of actors, and though the show does look at some painful issues, we are managing to find plenty of moments of laughter and lightness in the text.
What do you want audiences to come away feeling after seeing the show?
I hope audiences ultimately leave feeling entertained and hopeful, that even when there are divisions and hurt in a community, there is potential for re-birth and reform.
I hope they feel more connected to some of the issues and challenges gay women face, and curious about why there is such a dearth of spaces and opportunities for gay women to gather.
The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs runs from May 5 to June 11 at Soho Theatre.
For more information - https://sohotheatre.com/shows/the-ministry-of-lesbian-affairs/ Pictured: Back row standing: Shuna Snow, Fanta Barrie, Claudia Jolly, Lara Sawalha. Sitting: Mariah Louca, Freddie Stabb, Kibong Tanji