Trailed as the story of Saar, a member of London’s Gay Men’s Chorus, I thought I knew where documentary Who’s Gonna Love Me Know was going to take me, and I was there for it. Singing in choirs has given me the best moments of my life and it frustrates me that I just haven’t been able to be in one for a couple of years. Yet the role of the chorus is limited and used to maximum effect as a punctuating soundtrack to a gay son seeking reconciliation with his orthodox Jewish family in Israel.
The documentary (filmed over five years but feeling more like one as its never date stamped on screen) gives a sensitive witness to Saar’s life and choices. Seeing him going to the clinic to ‘check his bloods’ and change his medication was, I’m ashamed to admit, the first time I realised this is the inescapable reality (for now) of being HIV positive. What is inexcusable though is the shocking stigma. Saar himself says his status is ‘karma, because he did bad things’ including promiscuity and group sex (these are not bad things). Most of the conversations are subtitled from Hebrew, a language that doesn’t have the letters for HIV. His patriotic paratrooper father instead describes those who are HIV positive as ‘animals’.
Throughout the film, you see how thirty-something Saar embraces a wide sense of responsibility to family, both choral and biological, even when he’s been rejected. Directors Barak and Tomer Heymann give a beautiful contrast to the busyness of London and the stillness of a kibbutz in Israel. There’s laughs too, as Saar takes his Dad to Old Compton Street (which I first only recognised from the Caffe Nero they sat at). I could say much more, but that would spoil the film for you. Who’s Gonna Love Me Now is undoubtedly a moving, subtly shot documentary that answers its titular question and leaves you asking more about transformation and lova in our human relationships and the power of documentaries in shaping their stars’ lives.
Who’s Gonna Love Me Now is out to rent on demand now and to own on digital or DVD on 29th May. The film is mostly subtitled and it helps to have a basic knowledge of Jewish culture. Oriented is another fascinating documentary about three young gay Palestinians and is available on Netflix.
Since Aladdin opened at the Prince Edward Theatre last June, my friend and reviews I’ve read had the same opinion: it’s a bit too panto, but you go with it. At times spectacular, it doesn’t match up to Disney’s other Broadway big hitters, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, both of which translated the animation to theatre without losing any wonder or charm. Aladdin’s monkey sidekicks Abu and Carpet, as well as Princess Jasmine’s tiger Rajah are all disappointingly chopped out of the retold story.
Act One treads water with a too-slow chase in One Jump Ahead and some mediocre new songs until, finally, the Cave of Wonders comes to the rescue. It’s the breathless performance of The Genie (played I think by understudy Oliver Lindert when I went) in Friend Like Me that the musical rejoices in bringing you back to the film. John Gallagher as Jafar also gives a perfect performance as the British villain amongst an ensemble of American voices, seemingly used just to remind you this is Disney.
Despite my scepticism I was laughing along, enchanted by the colour filled costumes and magic carpet ride and thirsting over Aladdin’s friend Omar (Rachid Sabitri), who isn’t quite as sculpted or showing off as much flesh as the titular star. Aladdin was fun and sparkly afternoon at the theatre but you’ll still can’t beat the spectacle, emotion and Disney magic over at the Lyceum where the The Lion King is playing its 18th year.
RU Coming Out 5th Birthday Party
And on Thursday, the annual RU Coming Out party finally made me visit the RVT, Royal Vauxhall Tavern. The night was nothing but fun, celebrating the 5th birthday of a invaluable website run by my colleague Wayne Dhesi. Ruby Murray and Charity Shop Sue brought the cabaret and Nate James the soul while Sam Callahan got topless and surprised no-one. It was all a warm-up though for Mutya, belting out the best of the back catalogue and wiping the floor with the other Sugababe I saw this week (Jade plays Princess Jasmine). I drunkenly tweeted Too Lost In You was a highlight of my life and I stand by that.
— Vauxhall_Tavern (@thervt) April 21, 2017
— WayneDavid (@WayneDavid81) April 21, 2017
Next on My Gay Agenda is Angels In America at the end of May.