The Artistic Director of the UK’s only full time LGBTQ+ theatre hails from Australia, loves a drink at Ku Bar and flies business class back to his homeland.
Where are you from originally?
I was brought up in Brisbane, Australia. I came to London for a year in 1989 and forgot to go back. I’m lucky to have dual Australian/British citizenship through my parents.
And where do you live now?
I have an apartment in Kensington that through pure luck I bought at the bottom of the market in the early 1990s. I could never afford it now.
What do you love about London and why?
The vibrancy and variety of the people and things to do. There’s a line in a Woody Allen film that goes something like “I could never live in the country, it gets dark at night and there’s nowhere to go.”
What was the first gay venue you visited?
My first gay venue was the Exchange on Oxford Street in Sydney. I was fascinated but equally terrified. It was 1983 and the AIDS crisis was just taking hold. I remember people drinking with straws because they were too scared to drink directly from the glass. Living through that era in Australia helped a lot in getting the right feel for our current production, Holding The Man.
How are the plans for the new Above The Stag premises coming along?
It’s two steps forward, one step back. The bureaucracy is incredible, but we want to do things properly. We’ve had the plans signed off by the Fire Department, now we are waiting on Lambeth Council to give us the go ahead to commence the fit out. Once that happens, things will move quickly.
Favourite club/bar/venue in London and why?
Ku Bar. Gary Henshaw has worked hard and got the formula right. Great atmosphere, reasonable prices and friendly staff. Su Pollard and I invariably start or finish a night out there.
What is your guilty pleasure and why?
Tanqueray No. TEN. Why not?
What was the last theatre show you saw (not at Above The Stag) and what did you think of it?
Salad Days at the Union Theatre. It was a lovely production of a charming British musical from the 1950s that I first saw as a child in Australia. Bryan Hodgson, who directed, and Jack Weir, the lighting designer, are two up and coming creatives to watch. I love that in London you can follow the careers of talented artists from humble beginnings being incredibly inventive on the fringe to success on the West End.
When I go back to Australia I fly Qantas business class. It really is the best.
Best gift you’ve ever received?
Tom McGregor (our general manager) gave me a bottle of something for my birthday last year. Christ knows what it was but when I woke up three days later I felt fabulous.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Last year Andy Bell offered to do two acoustic Erasure concerts at Above The Stag as fundraisers. Just Andy and a piano, singing Erasure hits. I had to pinch myself. Here was someone whose music I had danced to through the 80s and 90s, performing that very music close up in our theatre.
If you could go back in time which year would you choose?
1980 something when I was still a skinny teenager.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and what made it so good?
I had this friend years ago in Australia who worked as a TV presenter. We were these bleached blond Aussie twinks getting up to all kinds of mischief. One weekend the TV network wasn’t using its VIP condo on the Gold Coast so we got the keys and invited loads of boys around. There was lots of Champagne and a Jacuzzi. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination…
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Ignore the critics, but listen to your audience.
Who is your LGBT+ hero and why?
Peter Tatchell. He has devoted his life to standing up for what is right.
Who are the most entertaining people you follow on Twitter?
I’m too busy to tweet. I do follow playwrights Esther Daack (Bathhouse The Musical) and Ronnie Larsen (Sleeping With Straight Men) on Facebook though, as they always seem to lead such entertaining and fun lives. Ronnie lives in Florida and in the middle of Hurricane Irma he was posting about a play. I messaged him and asked if everything was OK as there was a category five hurricane bearing down on him. “Oh yeah, that. It’s pretty windy out there!” The next day he posted a picture of him living in his car. I found it hilarious. He just didn’t care.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die and why?
I’ve travelled extensively and been pretty much everywhere I’d like to go, although I would like to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the Great Barrier Reef. I took off to see the world but forgot to see my own country.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
There are two things actually. Neutrogena make a factor 100 sunscreen and Jurgens make a brilliant fake tanning moisturiser.