Today the lovely Pen and Paper Theatre Co have featured me in their ‘Creative Conversations’ which you can hear here.
We chatted about the play previously included in their podcast ‘Flipcarts and Phillip Schofield’
As a lot of the conversation revolved around the piece, it seemed a good opportunity to talk a bit more about it…
Why did I write this piece?
Well it started off as a fun idea. And I’ll admit a blatant attempt to get into a scratch night. But also what are scratch nights for if not to motivate you to write?
I’ll open this on a serious note and say this piece is the first time I’ve got active hate for something I’ve written. Not via either the performance at The Other Room. Or the podcast version. But as I had shared the script (in good faith and a tiny bit of self promotion). I got an email, detailing in no uncertain terms that I was a terrible human for writing it. That I was offensive to both lesbians and bisexuals, and bizarrely given its one of the few things I’ve written not about HIV/AIDS to everyone who had died of AIDS too. Interestingly. Bizarrely I wasn’t offensive to Phillip Scofield, which I guess is something. Obviously if I actually do accidentally offend with some clumsy wording, let’s talk. But for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was being told I was wrong for just…existing in the world. Which long story short, it part of the reason for this existing.
It fused together a few ideas that had been kicking about; a ‘TED Talk’ style of performance which integrated audience address, with some life story. A joke about bisexuals fancying all women and 5 men/the idea of Ross and Rachel’s ‘list’ from Friends. And then…Phillip Scofield came out.
Had you asked me in January 2020 if I had strong feelings about Phillip Scofield’s coming out I would have said no. I was wrong. While we’re at if you’d asked me in January 2020 about a lot of things I would have been wrong. But that’s another story. Really all I thought I felt about Phillip Scofield were the following:
- He was a better Joseph than Jason Donovan (I will die on this hill)
- He was a better Saturday morning TV presenter than Ant and Dec (I will also die on this hill).
- He once (allegedly) snogged a (female) acquaintance of mine in a nightclub in the late 90s.
Also my dyslexic brain REALLY struggles with his surname so we’re just going to call him Phillip from now on. Phil if we get really friendly.
I was in work when I found out the news. You know back when we went to the office every day or had those job-things. And it was oddly emotional. I didn’t cry, but I felt something. Then I felt something familiar, that nervousness. My colleagues would be back soon and talking about it. Would they be happy and supportive, or would they be judgemental? I’d only been at this job about 8 months at this point, it could go either way…they were supportive, happy for him. And it was a personal relief too. That all to familiar sigh of relief moment that you wont have to defend someone’s right to exist.
So, it seemed I had thoughts about Phil, if not feelings.
The other strand of the play is this idea of not fitting in. Being out of step with how you should be, even within a community that you’re supposed to belong to.
One example for me came not long before writing this piece. I went to a comedy night run by and for Queer women comedians. And I have never felt less like I belonged. Partly being the provincial hick in a room of Shoreditch Lesbians. Partly being 35 in a room full of 25-year-old Shoreditch Lesbians. Partly that my ‘Queer Culture’ doesn’t align with theirs, and neither does my dress sense. I much like Captain America did not get their references. And I felt silently judged for it. Like they could sense I didn’t belong. And that actually…I didn’t want to belong. We talk a lot about a spectrum of Queer identities. But that’s only ok you’re on the right part of the spectrum, right?
That’s a far more complex and nuanced element to get into in this blog- and perhaps something the longer version of this play might explore better- but essentially, the way we dress, how we choose to live our lives…makes us excluded from the very community we’re in. My love of dressing ‘girly’ (and I’m not even that girly) means I don’t fit in often at best. At worst I’m confirming to the patriarchy. Well maybe I am, but also I just look better in a dress…
But there’s another element of course. Those Shoreditch lesbians? The undercurrent of a lot of the community…you’ve got to be a ‘proper’ lesbian to fit in. Bisexuals/Pansexual have heard it a million times. From the microaggression jokes, to the outright ‘you don’t belong’. To having your identity erased by who you’re dating. To not seeing yourself represented in the community you allegedly belong to.
And that’s why I wanted to write this piece. So people like me could see themselves in something. We’re getting better don’t get me wrong. TV in particular is streets ahead of theatre even in bi/pansexual representation. Just this week a long-loved character on my favourite trash-for-it tv show of 15 years, Greys Anatomy was revealed, almost inconsequentially as bisexual. Anyone who follows me on twitter or has had a conversation with me in the last two months, knows I am obsessed with Schitt’s Creek, and the pansexual representation there is the stuff of actual dreams. And there’s lots of other little examples popping up in tv that aren’t’ little to us, they’re huge. But weirdly theatre, where Queer stories actually have always been ahead of the curve, feels like it’s stuck in a binary. Gays and not gays. And bisexuals/Pansexual are some weird-shall-not-be-mentioned or side characters, or worse just don’t exist.
I also wanted to put a character in their 30s at the centre of a story. Particularly in fringe theatre, once you hit 30 you kind of fall off the radar, because apparently, you’re then either dead or a mountain troll? Or maybe young people’s stories are the only stories?
Basically, what I’m saying is I want to write pansexual romcoms, with women at the centre and won’t someone please commission this?
Finally, back to Phillip. Why was Phillip so important if I really hadn’t thought much about him before? Really, it’s just having those people in your life. Maybe it’s a bisexual thing, that it doesn’t matter to me whether a Queer person is male or female, if they’re someone I looked up to, or thought fondly of in some way, then it helps. And I think back to childhood and wonder, if the kids TV presenter had just been gay all along, how much easier it might have been for all of us to just accept who were as well.
Also I hear Phil’s got a book coming out. If he needs someone to write the stage version…I’m ready. Gopher and all.