Review: The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, Soho Theatre ★★★★☆

By Jordan Hayter

There’s a choir. Mostly, though not exclusively, a choir of women. A choir of women who love women. These are not ordinary women. These are women you do not see. They don’t appear on covers of beauty magazines or star in films that grace our TV screens. These are women who live on the margins. Women to whom the world has historically denied dignity, visibility and pride…
These words open the show and cannot express the message any clearer.
The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs is a beautiful show, that could very easily be a Netflix series or film, about finding a community, acceptance and love. It tells the story of a lesbian choir who are on a mission to unite a dwindling community and find somewhere to be who they want to be. It comments on many different topics, such as homophobia, pride, love, hate and most of all, community.
Back: Kiruna Stamell, Mariah Louca, Claudia Joll. Front: Lara Sawalha, Fanta Barrie, Kibong Tanji. Photo: Helen Murray

The choir features many different kinds of people, showing how queer people do not look the same; they come in every shape and form and do not fit the established media stereotype. The production has to be commended on its inclusion, with a play text that demands parts to be played by who they represent. Seeing all these different representations makes the production feel real, like you’re watching real people tell their story. Each character is written with such love and devotion that you immediately want to delve further into each of these characters’ stories and find out more. There is so much this show can develop in terms of plot that it could easily be 10 hours long.

Kibong Tanji stars as Lori, the secret songbird of the choir. Her vocals are heavenly, clearly from her west end background and she acts as the heart of the show, connecting everyone to this choir. Her girlfriend, Ana was played by Claudia Jolly, who does well at making the audience love and hate her character. She seems like the pushy, jealous girlfriend but shows that she has true passion for important topics.
Kiruna Stamell, Mariah Louca, Kibong Tanji, Claudia Jolly, Fanta Barrie, Lara Sawalha, Shuna Snow. Photo: Helen Murray
Mariah Louca brought the audience to tears with her performance of Brig, a trans woman in the choir. Her storyline is one of the most interesting and heart-breaking in the show, especially in the second act and she portrays the pain with such passion that it’s hard to watch with a dry eye. Another great performance was Kiruna Stamell as Fi. Her character is very complex, and she performs a massive speech in Act 2 which last for at least 2 or 3 minutes. Her storyline is another interesting one and includes her disability, and how that, as well as her being a lesbian, has made her feel restricted. She’s a very deep character portrayed beautifully.
Fanta Barrie as Ellie and Lara Sawalha as Dina acted as our comedic characters, but each was able to land these jokes throughout the show and show deeper character arcs behind this humour. These characters did get left a bit in Act 2 and I would love to see them get a bit more inclusion as their stories are both interesting. Shuna Snow performs as Connie, the conductor of the choir. She is such a delight to watch, even having her moments of deep story and comedy.
All in all, this production is a must-see, it’s such a delightful story to watch, leaving you wanting to find out more about every character. You will laugh, you will cry, you will leave in love with this choir.

The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs is at Soho Theatre until 11 June.

Jordan Hayter is an upcoming journalist, specialising in theatre, from Dorset. You can find her on Twitter @ReporterJordan