Where is Simone’s Place? Where does a person, whose gender identity is inconsistent with prescribed social mores, find a position of security, spirituality, levity and community in a society as staunchly conformist as ours? Glenville Lovell’s new play gives us a glimpse into that place which out of necessity is designed to provide the security of seclusion but at the same time generates the vulnerability of loneliness and isolation.
The play is set in the cabaret/home of Lady Simone, the middle class transgender proprietor of Simone’s Place. Here we meet five distinctly drawn characters each of who come to the bar with their own sense of social dislocation and vulnerability. Within the safety of the bar and emboldened by the emotional generosity of Simone, the confessions and affirmations of the play’s characters peal back the layers of race, class and gender norms in our society. This gives us the insight to question the rigid definitions of these social markers and the opportunity to transcend the harassment, invisibility and exclusion which plagues people in our community who find themselves to be “different”.
It is a great credit to executive producer Marlene Hewitt, the folks at the HIV Commission, producer Merle Niles and co producer Simon Alleyne of Lighthouse Foundation that they have taken the risk to step beyond the usual didacticism of message driven plays, toward the more layered and nuanced approach to exploring issues of sexuality, stigma and alienation that Simone’s Place provides.
Glenville’s work seldom offers us comfortable and reassuring perspective on our society. Instead he is constantly asking us to be me more introspective, more probing and more open to enlightenment. His plays are therefore demanding especially for actors and I could not have asked for a more generous set of collaborators than I had in the process of making this play.
Thanks to all who have allowed me to go on this creative journey and those with whom I traveled. I have been an admirer of Glenville Lovell’s work since I saw A Silver Web as a teenager so it is truly an honor to direct the first staging of this, his new play.
– Russell Watson