It’s January 2019. I’ve just recovered from writing and directing my first play, The Grindr Diaries, or how I once earned £200 licking an old man’s feet, and I’m looking ahead to my next project, but I am faced with writer’s block in a way I have never faced it before. 

I’ve always been a believer that art, especially comedy, comes from a little bit of suffering, and this was where I realised my problem: for the first time in a decade, I was genuinely happy with my life. I had the strongest network of friends I’ve ever had, my relationship with my family had never been better, and best of all, I was madly in love. If The Grindr Diaries stemmed from my disillusionment with gay hook-up culture and the false promises of gay sexual liberation, then this piece had to emerge from a time where I believed in the magic of love and the possibility that I could have a happy ending. Everything I had promised myself as a gay teenager growing up in rural Suffolk - that if I worked hard and got into university then I would finally escape the shackles of my heterosexual surroundings and find someone to love - it was all coming true. So, all I had to do was pose a simple question to myself: what if the one thing that was making me the happiest of all went away?

“The balance this play strikes is between looking back longingly on all the good times, but not allowing the bad times to become consumed by nostalgia”

I then wrote this play over the span of three months, returning to it every time I had a new thought about what would happen if my boyfriend died. This morbid fascination with the thought of someone I loved dying in a terror attack forced everything about my relationship into perspective. And out of this formed a sequence that inspired You’re dead and I’m eating pic’n’mix, crafting a story about the funeral of Charlie, the deceased boyfriend of the main character, Steven. I knew that I didn’t want this piece to be a straight comedy or a straight drama, but instead to tread the fine line of a darkly tragic comedy. As bleak as a funeral may seem, comedy can emerge from life’s darkest moments, and tragedy always strikes when you are at your happiest.

I was particularly inspired by the retrospective aspect of funerals and death rites, and so large sections of the play are dominated by Steven reflecting on the significant moments of his life with Charlie: the night they first met, their first date, the first time they said they loved each other. But it was important to me that Steven doesn’t look back exclusively with rose-tinted spectacles – he knows that Charlie was a good man but he was also flawed, and it has been a careful process with director Niall Conway to ensure Charlie’s ghost isn’t deified. Even the people we love can do things that hurt us, possibly more than anyone else. And that is the source of a lot of the conflict in the play. Charlie did things in life that hurt his mother and hurt Steven, especially where the two had directly competing interests, and the consequences of these decisions haunt the characters almost as much as Charlie himself. The balance this play strikes, therefore, is between looking back longingly on all the good times, but not allowing the bad times to become so consumed by nostalgia that you lose sight of the real person or the reality of the present. It is so easy to let those we love become a caricature of themselves in our mind, especially when they are no longer in our lives.


Mountain View

Becoming Electra, a homecoming kween

Although the relationship that inspired this play has since ended, the lessons learned stay with me and continue to inspire this story. In performing my own writing, I have taken control of this narrative, of what happens to Steven and Charlie. They might both be fictional, but they come from a very real place, and the intimacy of the comedy and tragedy comes from exposing my own vulnerabilities on stage – every joke has a nugget of truth, and every moment of sadness is based in my reality. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what in this play is actually true and what is not; instead, the overarching theme is about how beautiful and fantastic and pure love can be, despite its flaws, and how tremendously sad it is when something like that goes away.

You're Dead and I'm Eating Pic'n'Mix will be showing at the Corpus Playroom at 9.30pm, Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th November.