Homo Promos A Gay Century Pt 8. 1944: Home Fires

by Homo Promos Theatre in London, Greater London, United Kingdom

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Matinee idol composer Ivor Novello shared a cell in Wormwood Scrubs with psycho-thug ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser. The story reclaims a queer icon.

by Homo Promos Theatre in London, Greater London, United Kingdom


Homo Promos is the UK’s oldest LGBT theatre company.  We’ve been writing and performing shows about LGBT+ life for nearly 40 years.  We have always seen ourselves as part of the Queer Community, and put our work at the service of that community.  We love LGBT+ history and we love working with music.   We kept going with Zoom Performances throughout Covid lockdown, winning an award in the process.


Home Fires

‘1944: Home Fires’ is Episode 8 of a cycle of 17 pieces of music theatre covering ‘A Gay Century’, LGBT life 1900 – 2001.  Last year we premiered Episode 7, ‘1936: Fishing’, about Oscar Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, in old age.  We have many of the the same creative team: ILGCN cultural icon, librettist Peter Scott-Presland, veteran gay wordsmith since 1972; prize-winning composer Robert Ely, recently featured on 'Forced Out' about the gays sacked from the army for being gay; rising star director Emily Beech; Jack Campbell, last year's musical director and previously BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist; and up-and-coming lighting designer Liana Biggs.  And the person who has to hold it all together on the night, conductor Mighty Joe Tobin.1686931819_robert_ely_small.jpg

Libretto - Peter Scott-Presland


Director Emily Beech


Repetiteur Jack Campbell



Joe Tobin


VIDEO of 2022 Production "1936: Fishing"

Last year's production was really well received, with an audience satisfaction rating of 4.5/5, and comments such as “a gem of a show – a wonderful and inspiring evening”; “a beautifully presented and sung opera… the music is gorgeous”; “more productions like this should be supported financially”.

"The MD/Pianist was magnificent."

" Really well produced and such a talented team"

"Amazing voice production and music accompanying this gem of a show.  A wonderful and inspiring evening."

 IVOR NOVELLO1686511375_ivor_at_40.jpg

This year’s offering is based on the [possibly] true story of when Ivor Novello was sent down for 8 weeks for fiddling his petrol coupons.  He shared his cell in Wormwood Scrubs with a 20-year-old psychotic homophobe, Mad Frankie Fraser.   



WORMWOOD SCRUBS1686510880_wandsworth_prison.jpg

Fraser in the 1960s became the hit man for the rivals to the Krays, the Richardson Gang; his favourite pastime was pulling out teeth with a pair of pliers.  Ivor, who was the equivalent of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Elton John rolled into one, was convinced his theatre career was over and he had nothing to live for.   Hard man Frankie had his own secret terror because he was about to be transferred to Banstead Asylum to have his brain fried by ECT.  He’d been branded ‘incurable’, in the same way that gays were branded ‘incurable’ at the time.


[the bung is to stop you biting your tongue off]


The fey Ivor gives Frankie the determination to get out of ECT; Ivor is given courage to face the world by the other prisoners.  On the way we get a fascinating light on the soft underbelly of the black market and the Blitz; a meditation on masculinity and ‘macho’; and an inspiring story of redemption and recovery.

With a cast of four singers and a trio of 2 saxophones and a harp, this creates a unique sound world in which Novello's own music plays a crucial, climactic part.


We were turned down by the Arts Council for a grant, so we have had to re-jig our commitments to live with the money we have.  As a result of this, we are doing two theatre performances:

Sun 3rd Sept: The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, NW8 8EH.  8.30pm.  Part of Tete-a-Tete: the Opera Festival 2023.  Tickets £16.50/£5.50

You can get Cockpit Theatre tickets here: 



Wed 6th Sept:  The Tower Theatre, 16 Northwold Road, London N16 7HR

You can get Tower Theatre tickets here:



And then there is what we regard as the piece de resistance.  We're delighted to have been invited to perform this piece in Wormwood Scrubs itself, where the opera is set.  We have always liked performing 'in situ'.  In 1983 we performed a play set on Hampstead Heath at midnight on Midsummer Night - in the cruising ground on Hampstead Heath at midnight on Midsummer Night.  More recently we presented 'The Keyhole', a docudrama about the last two men hanged in England for sodomy, outside the house where they were arrested.

And now we will be in the chapel at Wormwood Scrubs.  This will be a private performance for prisoners, staff and families.


The reasons for doing it are both practical and idealistic.  Practically, it will be terrific publicity.  Idealistically Homo Promos has always been committed to getting out of traditional venues where possible, and taking work to audiences which otherwise it couldn't reach - and never more so than with opera.  Also, defining ourselves as a Queer Community Company, we want to strengthen the growing support for LGBT+ prisoners within the prison service; this performance is supported by Jake Booth, the Neurodiversity Support Officer at the Prison and the chair of Pride in Prison.  This all seems entirely admirable and a far cry from Suella Braverman!  Plus, oh yes, Jack will have a chance to play Ivor Novello's own piano, which is gathering dust in the chapel.  What a gift!

'A Gay Century' is an epic, mammoth undertaking of 17 scenarios which, if played consecutively, would last something over 20 hours.  However, we will eventually bring the whole cycle into the light of day, piece by piece, in bite-sized chunks. For this production we are drawing on reserves of £2900, a bequest of £3000, and we hope £3000 from Crowdfunding - that means you!

We still have some way to go.  Over to you, I hope.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£100 or more

£100 Reward - Tickets, video and copy of the book

2 tickets to a performance on 5/9; 6/9; 8/9 or 10/9/23 Video of the Cockpit Theatre performance Copy of 'A Gay Century, Volume 1' - postal address needed

£20 or more

£20 Reward

Copy of the book 'A Gay Century, Volume 1'

£40 or more

£40 Reward

Video of the 'Cockpit Theatre' performance of '1944: Home Fires'

£50 or more

£50 Reward

Two free tickets to '1944: Home Fires' at any one performance Sept 5th - Sept 10th

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