Shown nightly all last week, BBC4's Queers (part of the BBC's Gay Britannia season to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Wolfenden Report) was like a gay version of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. That's not a criticism by the way: any television monologue since Bennett is bound to draw comparison with his work, but the good news is Queers can take its place alongside it with pride (literally).
Curated by Mark Gatiss (which basically means produced and directed, with the opener The Man on the Platform being scripted by him) these twenty minute dramas are each set in the same pub and chart a course across the last one hundred years to sketch the gay experience in the UK. Uniformly, they are excellent. Each skilfully sketches its character and their world in a way that slowly envelopes and absorbs you without even noticing thanks to both the superb writing and performances and the intimacy that goes hand in hand with stories being told directly to camera.
Some are of course better than others. I must confess to feeling a slight lull and sag to the middle of the series with the third consecutive night which brought the episodes I Miss The War by Matthew Baldwin and Safest Spot In Town by Keith Jarrett, but the course was immediately righted with a stunning performance by the-national-treasure-in-waiting Gemma Whelan as Bertie the cross-dresser masquerading as a dapper gent in the 1929 set A Perfect Gentleman, penned by Jackie Clune. Other highlights include the series opener, Gatiss' own The Man on the Platform, which features an exquisitely sensitive and well drawn performance from Ben Whishaw as WWI soldier Perce (and who is pleasingly delivered full circle with a brief passing mention in the finale, the 2016 set Something Borrowed by Gareth McLean and starring Alan Cumming as an anxious groom awaiting the wedding day he never expected or indeed dared hope for); Brian Fillis' wryly comic, 1987 set More Anger which stars Russell Tovey as a gay actor who, fearing typecasting as an AIDS sufferer, finds his big break as unstereoptypical gay character Clive in a new soap well intentioned but disappointingly dull; Michael Dennis' touching A Grand Day Out which stars Dunkirk actor Fionn Whitehead as a naive 17 year old up in London for the first time on the night the government voted on the age of consent in 1994; and lastly, Jon Bradfield's 1957 set Missing Alice, which is the only monologue to feature a straight character, the titular Alice played by the marvellous Rebecca Front. Set around the publication of the Wolfenden Report, it tells the tale of a woman married to a homosexual man and how she has slowly come to accept and even enjoy his life. It's so beautifully written and so superbly performed, you really could have spent a whole 90 minutes or more in Front's company.
This beautiful, simple yet touching series also boasted a score to match, thanks to a piano instrumental theme tune from singer/songwriter and Elton John's protege Bright Light Bright Light, aka Rod Thomas
The full series is still available to view on the iPlayer