Summer in London is a hilarious new romantic comedy set in London with an all trans cast including Mzz Kimberley. It opens at the Theatre Royal Stratford East this Saturday (8 Jul) and runs until the end of the month. Dave Cross spoke to playwright Rikki Beadle Blair about this gorgeous and intriguing new play.
Hi Rikki, how would you describe Summer in London to someone thinking of coming to see it?
It’s a spectacular camp comedy with heart and soul featuring vibrant gay and trans characters.
What’s the story?
It’s an epic comedy romance. There are four broke homeless lads all competing to win the heart of a beautiful girl in a series of dates in the midst of a London heatwave.
Was it important to you to set this in London?
I’m a Bermondsey boy born and raised in the heart of London, yards from Tower Bridge. It’s a lifelong love affair. I wanted to treat our city the way American playwrights and filmmakers treat New York. And with all that’s been happening recently there’s never been a time when it’s needed more.
Can you talk us through the characters?
There’s Summer, the seemingly innocent girl fresh off the plane from the Philippines. She is described by another character as a cross between a kitten and hellcat. There’s Joan, a hyper glamorous diva, who’s a cross between Oprah and Diana Ross, played by the amazing Mzz Kimberley. We have Justine, a sexy rock chick misfit who’s a cross between Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. And the four boys who are cute, cheeky chappies who live homeless in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The play has an original soundtrack, tell us about the music?
I make all the music for my projects and this is a mix of electro pop, club anthems and atmospheric ballads. Music is a huge part of the process.
You have an all trans cast, was that always the intention?
A year ago I fell in love with the idea of creating a play with an all trans cast. I was excited by the idea of creating a world in which a perceived minority was the majority. No coming out, no confessions, no “I’ve got something to tell you…”. Kerry Michael the fantastic artistic director of one of the world’s bravest, boldest most welcoming venues, the Theatre Royal Stratford East, was, as always, an enthusiastic collaborator. And so we began.
Can you tell us about the writing of the play?
Since I was a kid I’ve always preferred to cast first and then write for the actors. Not so that I can write about them specifically. I’m not trying to write their biographies. Nor is this a devising/co-writing process. We sit round a table for a few sessions and we talk about anything and everything that comes to mind. Sometimes, if I know themes of the play we discuss those of course, and often have moral and ethical discussions/arguments. That’s all valuable and a lot of the random or pertinent things we discuss appear in the final script. It’s more general inspiration I’m searching for. I’m absorbing the vibe of the room, the chemistry between the participants – taking samples of their DNA and mixing it with mine. Trying to make a baby that looks a bit like them and bit like me, but is ultimately its own thing.
What would you like people to take away from Summer in London?
I want to give them a breathless, uplifting, gloriously romantic evening. Something to remember for the rest of their lives. An evening full of stars and sunsets, giant swans (you’ll see) eclipses, fireworks, and love, love, love.
Summer in London is at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from Saturday 8 July until 29 July. Tickets at stratfordeast.com or 0208 534 0310.