The man behind Myra DuBois fell in love with London by watching the musical Oliver! and once performed for a Saudi prince in the Seychelles.
Where are you from originally?
Rotherham, South Yorkshire. I grew up with my mum in a council house for the first few formative years of my life before she met my stepfather and had my sister, then we all moved to live and work in a pub in Manchester.
And where do you live now?
I moved to Greenwich (Royal Borough of) in January of this year and after a few teething issues I’ve grown to love it.
What do you love about London?
It’s rich history, which is reflected in its architecture. Not many people know this but I’m a total geek for a building. I love architecture and the stories that buildings tell. If you go and stand by the observatory in Greenwich Park you get the most stunning north facing views of the city and in one glance you can take in the Royal College, the Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral and Canary Wharf. No other city has such an instantly visible mix of periods in its skyline. I actually fell in love with London watching Oliver! – I wore out the VHS as a child – so perhaps that’s why I’m interested in its past.
First gay venue you visited?
It would have been Mutz Nutz in Manchester’s Gay Village in 2002 when I was 15 years old. Very ‘Queer As Folk’, in retrospect. I met up with a boy I’d met on an early social network site, Faceparty. He was a Chinese medical student called Ronald from Bolton and he went onto deflower me that very evening in the Ibis on Portland Street. My first gay club in London was The Cock at Ghetto in 2005. A wildly different experience…
Favourite venue in London?
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is very special to me. It acted as a sort of incubator to Myra as the act developed. She’s had her worst gigs there, playing to three people on a wet Wednesday, and her best, storming it to a packed house on a Sunday. Myra was also in their pantos for several years, three of which I wrote. I’ve gotten into some right conditions and kissed a lot of boys between those walls. I’ve even been thrown out by security and had to come back the next day to apologise! Also the Retro Bar, where Myra hosted the quiz for five years, means an awful lot to me.
Last theatre show you saw?
The Glass Menagerie at The Duke of York’s, and it was fantastic – unexpectedly so! A friend and I had a spare evening and were offered free tickets to that, David Baddiel’s new show or Gary Barlow’s The Girls, so we picked at random. For the first five minutes we both thought we’d hate it, by the end of act one we were on board, but by the end of act two we’d taken an emotional battering! It was very cathartic. I’d never seen (or read) any Tennessee Williams before and it was excellent. I’m going to explore his work more after that.
Best gift you’ve ever received?
I was recently given my grandad’s dress watch to wear at a very close friend’s wedding, so I’ll choose that. A double whammy of sentiment.
If you could go back in time which year would you choose?
I think I’d have liked to have been part of the early 60s in London and have known Joe Orton and Joan Littlewood. Perhaps socially I’d have gone to see comedians perform at Peter Cook’s The Establishment. I’ve read a lot of diaries, autobiographies and biographies on people’s careers that encapsulate this time – Orton, Kenneth Williams, Barry Humphries, Lionel Bart – and it sounds like a wonderful period to have been a part of.
Best party you’ve ever been to?
My friend got married in Portugal last year and that was a three-day party that I won’t forget in a hurry. It was the most gorgeous scenery, stunning weather and perfect company all underscored by wonderful food and drink.
Highlight of your career so far?
I think a long career should have many highlights shouldn’t it? You set yourself little goals and once you’ve achieved that, it’s on to the next thing. I remember when I first moved to London I vowed that Myra would play Duckie, and she did. I then vowed that Myra would play a Sunday at the Tavern and she did. I promised that Myra would worm her way onto the Hackney Empire stage and she did. Recording The John Bishop Show there in 2015 was a highlight, as was the subsequent gig with Sir Tim Rice in a Mayfair hotel. I was also flown out to the Seychelles to perform for a Saudi prince once, which was surreal and wonderful. I suppose the biggest highlight has been Myra developing something of a cult audience that come to show after show after show. You can’t help but build up a rapport with those people, they’re on the journey with you. That’s a big thrill.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
‘Never compare, never compete’ –
David Hoyle. Sage words that I remind myself when I need grounding.
Who is your LGBT hero and why?
After the shocking reports coming out of Chechnya, those people who are still fighting for our rights in the present day in dangerous circumstances are my heroes. They’re the ones I’ve got the most respect for right now.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die?
I’d like to see the Northern Lights and swim in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. I’d also like to visit Australia at some point.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
That my time with my mother was limited.