My brother Donald was fascinated with the pop singer, Dusty Springfield. Growing up in Aberdeen, Scotland in the 60s, he would regularly impersonate her. At the age of 10, I was his audience, judge and jury and would award him points for how well he performed Dusty. From a young age, Donald knew he was gay and he took power from knowing that “the normal rules don’t apply” to him. I was a conspirator in his rebellion against hetero-normativity. As the field hockey playing younger sister, Donald’s outrageousness had a big impact.
In 1970, Dusty was the first female pop singer celebrity to come out in the UK. She was already known for her outspoken-ness. Performing in S. Africa in 1963, Dusty refused to perform for white-only audiences and under the apartheid segregation laws, she was arrested and thrown in jail and then out of the country. She later used her influence as host of the BBC TV show Ready Steady Go, to bring black American musicians, such as Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas and Smokey Robinson, to the UK for the first time.
During the early 70’s Donald was a singer and dancer in the television troupe, The Young Generation and later appeared in West End shows such as Anthony Newley’s, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. He did not receive the fame he wanted, but he did become a millionaire as a savvy antique dealer and owner of real estate. Sadly, Donald died of AIDS-related causes in 1992. Dusty died of breast cancer in 1999.
DONALD DOES DUSTY pays homage to them both and draws upon Donald and Dusty’s lives and careers. They shared a common heritage: both coming from lower class backgrounds; both singers and performers; both desirous of fame and fortune and both closeted gays in a homophobic Britain. The performance raises issues of death and bereavement, and creates a new celebration space in which to celebrate the spirit of our loved ones who have passed on.