Finborough Theatre presents first online performance of controversial play for 30 years


Following its hugely controversial run at the Finborough Theatre in 1990, Homo Promos presents a Zoom staged reading of Eric Presland’s Leather. The reading will be live streamed on Tuesday, 15 June 2021 at 7.00pm, and will then be available from Tuesday, 22 June to Tuesday, 20 July 2021 on the Finborough Theatre YouTube channel, and concurrently with subtitles on Scenesaver.

Phil befriends Gordon, a rape survivor, and they become lovers.

But Gordon finds himself drawn to Phil’s best friend, Terry, who is into heavy sadomasochism…

A brave and groundbreaking play about gay domestic abuse, redolent of pain and violence in all its forms, consensual and non-consensual, as physical abuse is paralleled by mental control, and the erosion of any sense of worth.

Two members of the original cast, Matthew Hodson and Keith Bursnall, will be appearing in the Zoom reading, with the author, Peter Scott-Presland, present. The Zoom reading will be followed by a chance to discuss the issues involved with the cast and author.

The most controversial play Homo Promos ever produced, and the one which people keep asking to see again. It played to packed houses at the Finborough Theatre, despite an attempt by Whitbread, the brewery that owned the Finborough Arms building at the time to close it. Section 28, preventing the ‘promotion of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’ was also waved at the company.

Male rape was first highlighted by Capital Gay in two 4-page centre spreads after Heaven nightclub used a rape scene as its Halloween ‘entertainment’ in 1981. Author of Leather, Peter Scott-Presland was one of the journalists who worked on that exposé, and the experience fed into the writing of the play which was completed in 1987, although it took three years to get a company together to stage it. When it was performed it was the first play to deal with the subject within the gay community. Many objected violently to any suggestion that it was a common occurrence. Nowadays male rape and domestic abuse is acknowledged as a major stain on LGBTQ+ life: the latest statistics suggest 18% of gay men have suffered it at some time.

There are now several charities which work to support male survivors of abuse and violence. The Zoom reading will be a benefit for Stay Brave, a volunteer-led charity providing support and advice to survivors.

To donate, please go to:

Playwright Peter Scott-Presland founded Homo Promos in 1988, after previous companies One In Ten (1976–1979) and Consenting Adults In Public (1980–1987). He is the author of over twenty plays and six musicals including Teatrolley, the first of four Plays for Hampstead Heath, the award-winning Sir Herbert Macrae: A Tribute, the OffWestEnd Award-nominated musical La Ronde, the DORA-nominated Dorothy’s Travels, Desire, a musical with score by Peter Murphy based on Edmund White’s States of Desire, and Free, an anti-requiem with London Gay Symphony Orchestra. He directed, and collaborated on, Anti Body, the first play in the world to deal with HIV/AIDS issues. Most recently he has been working with Robert Ely on a cycle of seventeen mini-operas A Gay Century: Vignettes of Gay Life 1900 – 2001. @homopromos

Director Patrick Kealey has been a writer, director, actor and teacher for over forty years. With Group K, which he also founded, he has produced, among others, Kafka’s Amerika (Southwark Playhouse and US), As I Lay Dying (BAC), and Presto (Riverside Studios and National Tour). He has been dramaturg for Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental’s 17 Border Crossings (Bogotà, Philadelphia and Edinburgh), We Are For Sale and Band of Gold. Patrick is the Artistic Director of Hastings-based Theatre Nation, and is currently rehearsing for The Life and Rhymes of Archie and Mehitabel for Hastings’ Stable Theatre and the Brighton Festival. He is working on a three-year collaboration with the David Glass Ensemble based on the works of Beckett. He has been involved in Homo Promos Zoom performances since Spring 2020, both as an actor and a director.

Homo Promos was founded in 1988 to throw down the gauntlet to Section 28, the Conservative government’s anti-gay legislation. It has now triumphantly survived the Bigots’ Charter by eighteen years. In addition to Peter Scott-Presland’s plays above, it has promoted work by Ian Lucas (Triptych, Dolpins Can Swim), Doric Wilson (Street Theatre), Claire Purkiss (Flying Lessons), David Roddis (Hot, Hung and Horny) and Timothy Mason (Levitation). It programmed the cabaret tent at Pride in London for ten years, and has organized numerous benefit events in collaboration with other performers. In 1995, it recorded fifteen episodes of Quiche on the Rocks by Peter Scott-Presland and David Roddis for the Pride radio station Freedom FM. It has been performing a weekly Zoom play since March 2020, and has notched up over 50 performances, winning the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network’s 2021 Award.

The cast is:

Peter Boyle

Graduated in English and Drama in 2001.

Theatre includes local theatre groups in Manchester and, most recently, in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, Witness for the Prosecution, various online plays with Out in the Valley in Hebden Bridge and with Homo Promos Zoom Series 3 and 4 since January 2021.

Peter is also a Manager for a Mental Health Charity in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Keith Bursnall | Clive

Keith appeared at the Finborough Theatre in the original 1990 production of Leather.

Trained at Wimbledon College of Art before gravitating to performance in touring companies around Greater Manchester, including children’s theatre company Krazy Kat. Theatre with Homo Promos includes Teatrolley, the musicals Wednesday Matinee and Escape from Planet Mary, Hot Hung & Horny, and the Christmas show, We Three Queens. With Toby Collins he also formed the popular cabaret duo, Bent Double, which appeared regularly at Pride in the 1990s.

Will Forester | Terry

Theatre includes Hamlet on the Beach (Rotherhithe Beach), Peace in Our Time (Union Theatre), Twelfth Night (Rose Theatre, Bankside), Dictating to The Estate (Playground Theatre), The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (St Mary’s, Barnes), Sweeney Todd (The Ditch in Shoreditch), The Winter’s Tale (Bridewell Theatre), Dracula (The London Theatre), Necessity (Bread and Roses Theatre) and Othello (Oxford House Theatre).

Film includes The Deathless Woman and Small Blue Disc.

Music Videos include Ballare and Haunted Car.

Matthew Hodson | Phil

Matthew appeared at the Finborough Theatre in the original 1990 production of Leather.

Theatre includes The Chemsex Monologues (King’s Head Theatre and Above the Stag Theatre), Queers and The Clinic (King’s Head Theatre), Kissed by a Flame (Above the Arts Theatre), Superficial (The Glory), The Mousetrap (St Martin’s Theatre), Watch Out for Mr Stork (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), Chief Swollen-Foot (Tristan Bates Theatre), The Sound of Music and The King and I (BAC), Oedipus, Androcles and the Lion, Agamemnon, Treasure Island, Children of Hercules and The London Nativity (The Steam Industry at The Scoop) and Homo Promos’ The Gay Century: Lockdown Readings.

Film includes Common People and Breaking the Code.

Television includes The Grass Is Always Grindr.

Webseries include Flatshare.

Matthew is also the Executive Director of the HIV information charity NAM aidsmap.

Denholm Spurr | Gordon

Theatre includes No Sweat (Pleasance London), The Chemsex Monologues (King’s Head Theatre and International Tour), The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor (Old Red Lion Theatre), Cathy Come Home (Barbican Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (Secret Theatre).

Film includes Clarissa, Stone, When Pigs Die, Remembering Daisy, Meniscus and Extra Time.

Television includes The Grass Is Always Grindr and Ex, Drugs and Murder.

Denholm is a three-time nominee for an OffWestEnd award.

He is also a director and producer, most recently on the international award winning show Happily Ever Poofter.

LIVE on Zoom. Tuesday, 15 June 2021 at 7.00pm, followed by a post-show discussion

Recorded on the Finborough Theatre YouTube Channel and with subtitles on Scenesaver

Tuesday, 22 June to Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Performance Length: Approximately two and a half hours.

Leather is not suitable for children. This performance includes sensitive subject matter including depictions of sexual and domestic violence.

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