Playwright and performer Alexis Gregory is performing his play Riot Act as a fundraiser for World AIDS Day on Monday for 56 Dean Street’s Wellbeing Programme. He was brought up on spaghetti and loves Janet Jackson.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in London. My father is Greek Cypriot and my mother is part Italian and part Maltese. I was brought up near Wembley. The glamour!
And where do you live now?
I live in North London. No partner or anything like that… but maybe 2019 is my year to find Mr Right. Did I just put that out there? Yes, I think maybe I did.
What do you love about London and why?
London is such a great city and there is so much to do here and we lead in so many ways.
What was the first gay venue you visited?
I was seventeen years old. I met a guy. He told me to meet him the next day in the Village Soho. So I went around looking for a village called ‘Soho’ in the West End. What was I looking for? Cows and a friendly farmer to point me in the right direction? Yes, I was that naive. I had no idea.
How would you describe Riot Act?
It’s a wild trip through six decades of queer life from the night of the Stonewall riots to the streets of London today in 2018. I stand on one spot and play three very different characters and the dialogue is created entirely out of my interviews with three extraordinary gay men, one of the only remaining Stonewall survivors, a radical drag queen and an ACT-UP AIDS activist. ‘Riot Act’ is hard-hitting, provocative, moving and funny.
Why did you choose 56 Dean Street for this charity performance?
Dean Street do such great things for the community and all the proceeds will go towards funding their Wellbeing Programme. So much of ‘Riot Act’ covers gay men’s emotional journeys and so that fits with the Wellbeing Programme too. We have a West End theatre for the night, The Duchess, and I think it’s going to be rocking.
What was the last theatre show you saw, where, and what did you think of it?
I’ve just seen ‘To Catch A Krampus’ at the Pleasance. It’s their Christmas show and it is wickedly subversive, beautiful and hilariously funny with a killer cast and a killer design. Natasha Simone’s ‘Everything I Am’ has just played the Camden People’s Theatre and the Omnibus in Clapham and it’s about her journey as a queer black woman and that is great too.
What is your guilty pleasure and why?
Oh that’s a whole other interview and a long one at that.
The ‘C’ word. Carbohydrates. There I said it. I was brought up on spaghetti. What’s a boy to do?
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
There have been so many along the way, from having my first play ‘Slap’ performed as Channel 4’s first ever on site theatre performance, to getting published, to directing my own work, to having people whose work I’ve admired for years and influence me coming to watch mine, to this upcoming ‘Riot Act’ gig which is actually my West End debut.
If you could go back in time which year would you choose and why?
So many modern era’s fascinate me. America in ’69 with Warhol and The Factory and and then later the early days of Disco and 1970’s gay San Francisco. I’d have loved to have been there for any of that.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and what made it so good?
There have been so many, from full on clubbing nights (and morning and afternoons) out, to dancing on the beach abroad in the sun and into the night as the sun sets. There are also those nights out that I can’t recall but that I’m sure were just wonderful. I like house parties now with my close friends.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
That people tell you everything you need to know, often when you first meet them, and that we just have to listen and not ignore certain signals or signs. They tell us everything about how they treat others and how they will treat us!
Who is your LGBT+ hero and why?
Rikki Beadle-Blair who directs ‘Riot Act’ of course. I’ve worked with Rikki as an actor, and now writer, for fifteen years. He pioneered so much which is now in the mainstream; for example notions of diversity and inclusion when they were still seen as corny cliches and also multi-ethnic casting and placing queer stories talking centre stage, utilised and viewing queerness, as an artist, as a bonus and not something which may hold you back. If I hadn’t of met Rikki, I would be a very different person today.
Who are the most entertaining people you follow on social media and why?
I’m all about with Janet Jackson’s Instagram. That is how you do it. Great insights (managed by her team; I’ve done my research) and always classy. I’m loving her current revival and that she is picking up every award in town and that they are having to create new awards for her because she so fierce. All hail Queen Janet.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die and why?
I’d like to go to Russia and Tel-Aviv. The culture fascinates me.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
What a waste of energy it is to worry about things out of my control and how much of a waste of energy it is always trying to be a perfect person. There is no such thing. We are who we all are, flaws and all.
Alexis Gregory is performing his play Riot Act as a West End charity gala performance in aid of the 56 Dean Street Wellbeing Programme for World AIDS Day on Monday November 26th.
Tickets from nimaxtheatres.com/shows/riot-act