Richard Herring Press

The Edinburgh fringe: Talking Cock, Monday July 29, 2002 The Guardian

I am sorry to read that Michael Billington blames my show, Talking Cock, for the decline of the Edinburgh Festival and that by performing it I am risking the survival of the Janacek String Quartet (Why I hate the fringe, G2, July 25). I think this is slightly unfair given that he hasn't actually seen my show and can have no idea of the content, which, for all he knows, may rank alongside the most beautiful and moving theatre ever created.

Having a rude word in the title does not necessarily mean I am a "sensation-seeker". None of my other 18 successful Edinburgh shows have had swearing in the title and have still all done OK. Presumably Billington would also object to The Vagina Monologues for its similar attention-grabbing naughty title. As to the other shows he mentions, which he has also not seen, Deep Throat is performed by Alex Lowe, who in previous years has co-created some marvelous pieces of theatre around the rather mundane subjects of 70s wrestling and Radio 1 DJs, and I see no reason why this year's show should not be equally excellent merely because it takes pornography as its theme.

As to Lesbian Launderette, maybe it is a moving account of how women of the Sapphic persuasion manage to keep their clothes clean. We won't know until we've seen it. That's what makes the Edinburgh Fringe so excellent. You take a punt on a show. You might think it's going to be one thing and it turns out to be something else.
Richard Herring

Writer-performer, Talking Cock

It is always upsetting to be the recipient of criticism in the press, especially when the journalist expressing the view that the show which my company is taking to Edinburgh is responsible for (or at least symptomatic of) the destruction of the dramatic standards of the fringe festival has not seen the show. It is even more worrying, however, to realise the levels of bigotry, however unconscious, being displayed in Michael Billington's offhand judgment of Lesbian Launderette.

Mr Billington has assumed that because the title contains the word lesbian, the aim of the production must be to scandalise, titillate, and to be a sensation to "catch the gullible media". This production features no sex, no swearing, no onstage nudity. Yes, we have cross-dressing, homosexual relationships, musical numbers and synchronised dancing. Consider these sensational if you will. But our intention has always been to break down the "contemporary cultural bifurcation" which Mr Billington so rightly denigrates. Can a play coming out of gay culture not be "high-brow"? Can we not cite both Shakespeare and Kylie as our influences?
Jessica Hurley
Producer, Lesbian Launderette

Source - Guardian Online