Inky Cloak’s We Raise Our Hands in the Sanctuary is an accessible, entertaining, thoughtful piece of dance-theatre that at times seems to shy away from the dark underbelly of the gay condition in the 80s; instead focussing upon the tongue-and-cheek nature of a community threatened daily by pandemics and societal pressures.
The performance epitomises the ambiance of the gay club scene with high-octane lighting synchronised with a soundtrack pumped full of 80s nostalgia. Taking inspiration from an eclectic mix the decade’s idols ranging from Freddy Mercury to Boy George, the costume design works in conjunction with Ajadi’s and Willis’ performances (choreographed to near perfection by Mina Aidoo) to set the scene in a satisfying way unattainable by traditional prop methods. The Albany’s stage gives a robust platform to each any every scenario, at one point mirroring the DJ booth with a church pulpit seamlessly and reinforcing the spiritual and therapeutic value of the sanctuary.
It would be incorrect to say that the play fails to tackle the real issues facing the gay community entirely, and a brief understanding of the scene involving family, drugs, disease and death leaves the audience with an awareness of what was (and in many instances still is) at stake. Carl Mullaney’s foul-mouthed but incredibly charming drag queen Brandi punctuates the play with powerful soliloquies that remind you of the gay condition outside of their sanctuary, and the horror the AIDs epidemic wrought across the gay world.
Culminating in a realisation that the community and themselves are their own real sanctuary, the play reconciles itself as tidily as those who performed it. Hall’s Michael and Obi’s Joseph strong performance as believable and relatable best friends and Graham’s Paul’s sterling East End accent remind you how this is not an isolated tale, but one that can and has percolated across the human condition for millennia – brimming with lessons for all who watch it.