Turan Ali’s regular, and utterly fabulous celebration of Queer Folks’ Tales were, wisely, booked by the wondrous Scottish Storytelling Centre to be their resident, repeat show for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Now, there’s limited point giving stars (though I have because I can) etc to a show which, by definition, is never the same twice. The only constant is Turan Ali, an absolutely splendid human being who soaks up the limelight like my pet cat accepts head scritches. Not only is he an excellent raconteur, he also sets an ‘anything goes’ safe environment from the get go. There’s no expectation of salacious details, none at all, but if that’s where your story wanders just make it good.
Indeed Ali’s commitment to quality is easily identifiable in the line-up for 19/8 show. In the first half: Ali himself, Ex-nun, now stand-up Kelli Dunham, and singer-songwriter, and Lowry Associate Artist, Finn Anderson. In the second: Drag stand-up Lacy Rain, inaugural BBC Radio Scotland Singer/Songwriter of the Year, Mike McKenzie, and droll, moustachioed stand-up Sam Lake. It’s impressive the Storytelling Centre stage didn’t buckle beneath the weight of talent.
However, being Queer Folks’ Tales, the gathered talents cannot simply fall back on their everyday schtick. No, it must be taken and sculpted into a coherent, complete narrative. For Dunham, that meant a sweetbitter memoir of life with Helen McAllister, a whirlwind romance which would morph, all too soon, into end of life care. For BBC Producer Ali, it meant ribald adventures through Malay saunas, under threat of arrest. For Anderson, it meant plucking two very personal songs from his back catalogue, numbers speaking to his love of wild places, home, and intimate encouters beneath a diverse assortment of trees.
The splendidly dry, yellow-stockinged Lacy Rain conjured up a memory of a night of escalatingly bizarre sexual events with an ex partner. Mike McKenzie battled through Fringe-flu to sing gently sweet love songs inspired by his new husband. Which left Sam Lake to take the Nethebow Theatre audience on his journey to become a ‘daddy’ – no, not a dad, the other kind.
As you can see, there’s absolutely no theme, and no expectation of sharing the secrets of one’s boudoir, backroom, shower etc, etc. The tales are what they are, sad, touching, joyful, bizarre, or even all of the above. These are Queer Folks’ Tales, in every wonderful, fascinating flavour, and it’s in the variety and unpredictablity that such a cabaret of yarn spinning becomes more than the sum of its parts. However large those parts may, or may not be.
The phrase ‘something for everyone’ is a bit overused, but it’s true here, by definition. The pièce de résistance is Ali’s encouraging of audience contributed ‘micro-stories’, submitted on small bits of paper handed out during the intermission. Some of the contributions are then dotted between the headline acts, really emphasising the community feel of the night.
Obviously I can’t promise you the same night I’m talking about, only that having sat in on Queer Folks’ Tales several times, I’m yet to see Turan Ali assemble a less than superb show. He himself is worth the ticket price, a masterful story teller, and the setter of a wonderful tone. You only have two more chances to get yourselves along, so get clicking. In case you’re wondering, I’m straight, so you can also put any concerns of ‘choir preaching’ to bed (wink).