Research is a drag for ‘Council House Movie Star’

Edge Hill scholar turns a queer eye on ageing

July 4, 2013

Stare power: Mark Edward in character as drag queen Gale Force

A researcher at Edge Hill University will take a film about his alter ego – Gale Force, drag queen and former child star – to the International Federation for Theatre Research Conference in Barcelona this month.

Now senior lecturer in performance, Mark Edward has had a long career in contemporary dance and also worked as a drag queen in the 1980s. As he came off stage one evening, somebody mockingly called out: “Council house movie star!”

He was offended at the time, “but later I said to myself: ‘I’m actually going to have that title’ – Gale Force was a reaction against the predominantly white female classical dance background I have experienced. The persona started to come from that.”

Reaching his mid-thirties had also caused Mr Edward to re-evaluate his life, since he “felt in a state of flux and didn’t know where I wanted to go within the UK’s youth-driven agenda for dance”.

This led to practice-based research on ageing performers and drag queens’ “precarious relationship within contemporary gay culture”. Last year Mr Edward secured funding for a 30-minute film, Council House Movie Star, starring Gale Force in a run-down flat smothered in kitsch 1970s decor. Her only interaction is with a rat that she occasionally chases with a meat cleaver.

“The house is like an archive of her that is deteriorating,” he explained, “and she’s clinging on to memories from the past.” In the film, she remembers how as a young boy in the 1960s she was “beaten up by a guy who jumps off a Chopper bike and gives her a bloody nose in the alleyway in a terraced cobbled street”. Although she now looks “horrific” in the mirror, she dreams of herself looking “glamorous on stage in her heyday”.

Council House Movie Star was screened at the launch of last year’s Homotopia “festival of queer arts and culture” in Liverpool. The film’s set then moved to the city’s Camp & Furnace gallery, where Mr Edward lived in character for two weeks. Visitors found Gale Force asleep, drunk, in a strop, singing old favourites with a friend or “re-enacting her Omo washing powder moment” as the child star of a television advertisement.

Despite her grotesqueness, Mr Edward found that “people do relate to her. When I did the installation and Gale would tweet ‘I could do with some vodka’ or ‘I’d love some jelly babies’, people would come by with vodka bottles and jelly babies.”

At the Barcelona conference, Mr Edward plans to show Council House Movie Star and to discuss the research behind it. Unlike academics who can write their papers and “shelter behind a desk”, he declared, his form of embodied research means “putting myself out there as a queer marker”.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Retired academics calculating moves while playing bowls

Lincoln Allison, Eric Thomas and Richard Larschan reflect on the ‘next phase’ of the scholarly life