On a very wet Thursday evening I ventured to the Camden People’s Theatre for a one man show by performance artist Tom Marshman called Kings Cross (Remix).

Show poster

Having not done much research into the content I was preparing myself for something gritty. I was surprised when we walked into the space to the sounds of a retro pop soundtrack and Marshman dancing under disco lights while we filed passed. One got the sense you could have joined him if you were so inclined.

Pre-drinks – standard

What could have been a fierce and challenging account of a bustling part of town was actually heart-warming and honest. The show comprised of interwoven personal stories from a selection people who lived and worked in the area of Kings Cross in the eighties. It was an honouring of real experiences and real life tapping into the hidden LGBTQ history as told through extravagance, hedonism, heartbreak and a genuine lust for life.

As Marshman said in his opening monologue: “Not fact, not fiction, not devils nor saints, just stories that deserve to be told”

We were relayed humorous memories from a speed addict who partied all night (every night) before heading straight to work in the morning and a friend who enjoyed dressing camp for the sheer fun of glamming up. Taped recollections from someone who worked at the 24 hour helpline that was then known as Gay Switchboard and another who saw the smoke rising out of Kings Cross Station from his balcony in 1987 from the fire that went on to kill 31 people. We were advised on correct bar etiquette from a staff member at The Bell pub, where Derek Jarman and The Pet Shop Boys frequented and learned that many knew where to park one’s car under the railway arches for a casual encounter.


The station fire that killed 31 and injured 100

A lot seems to have changed in the last few decades. While AIDS is not a word you hear used so much anymore – now almost always referred to as HIV since treatment has progressed so far the mortality rate has plummeted.  

The repeal of Section 38 in 2003 – a Local Government Act signed into law in 1988 banning the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. An act which legitimised the idea that one’s sexuality is a choice which one can be persuaded into changing as opposed to being biologically determined. An example of a moment of victory proving the real power of people.

On the other side of the coin the so called regeneration of the area was slated by a character claiming it robbed Kings Cross of it’s soul. Gentrification pushed by developers with an apparent agenda to dictate to people what they should want and filling the area with suited city types.  

The evening was dedicated to those that were lost and their loved ones who survived, those that remember, and those that were and still are drawn to the freedom that being oneself allows.

As a sort of encore Marshman invited us all to join him in honouring the real storytellers of the evening by ‘recreating’ the Bell Pub. We joined him on the staging area and danced together to a mix of eighties pop classics including the likes of Depeche Mode and OMD. It was a wonderful way to connect with that aforementioned soul of an area generally viewed, including by me, as just a transport hub. 

This show is a warm, gentle and joyous celebration of ‘colourful’ people and how the world we inhabit is greyed by their absence. It runs until Saturday the 27th, click the link below and grab a ticket.  

All are welcome