Sean: It’s not your standard play. It was based on a feature film – which usually happens the opposite way, plays usually go to feature film. So DC Moore the writer has had a lot of fun adding in that wonderful British thing of awkwardness. In a nutshell the play is about two best friends who, in an attempt to rediscover and define themselves, go beyond the limits of what they’re capable of. But they do that by doing the most awkward thing possible, by proving how masculine they are – by making a gay porn film. (laughs) There’s lots of open-ended questions-
Maddi: A lot of questions raised by the play and our hope is that audiences will go away and talk about it and ask themselves what happened and why-
Sean: And why is that even a problem?
Maddi: For me the interesting question that it throws up is about how do we ever know that we’re on the right path. In terms of relationships, and really everything, how do you ever know that the career you’ve chosen is the right one, that the person you’ve chosen to be with is the right person, that you’re living in the right city, that you should buy this house and have this many kids – how do you ever know that.
Emily: I feel like it’s made worse by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and you’re swamped by all these options and when you choose something you constantly feel like you could have gotten more if you made a different decision, even though there are perfectly valuable things about the decision you made.
Sean: The grass is always greener on the other side.
Maddi: With social media these days it’s everywhere – people’s Instagram lives, when they’ve done studies to show that social media is a massive influence of depression because people think that these beautiful filtered lives. And we know that it’s not someone’s life but you can’t help looking at it and wanting more.
Emily: Or even just wanting to believe in it.
Sean: So many of these characters are asking am I as satisfied, or am I as complete, as I should be. My character, Waldorf, and Simon’s character, Lewis, are essentially living two very different lives at the start of the play, and then that question is posed to the other. In my coming back from 7 years of travelling it makes him question what he has, which is the house and the wife, and makes Waldorf ask if he has maybe messed up somewhere, because he isn’t as satisfied as he thought he should be, living the free spirit life.
Emily: Can I ask, what is the allure of filming a gay porno, because I don’t get it.
Sean: There’s none. (laughs)
Maddi: Don’t ask me that question!
Sean: The concepts in the play come from a character called Steph, played by Danielle Cormack, who comes in and shakes things up. As much as Waldorf is the catalyst for change it’s Steph that throws a massive curveball. She comes from a different world, she’s the most laidback character, totally in her head – she’s wonderful. She throws up Humpfest, which is a real thing – it’s an amateur porn festival so wannabe porn stars… (laughs) – but it’s more than that! It’s about the catharsis of doing something you would never do, and they take all the best tapes, they’re shown in a massive screen in the country, and then they’re burnt – and no one has any records of it.
Sean: So you can do something you feel too repressed to do, be it gay sex with your friend, or you and your partner making an amateur film – or just something that titillates you that you might be embarrassed about. It goes out there to the world and then it’s burnt. So Steph introduces this idea and Lewis, trying to prove how cool and down to earth he is, says he’ll do it. And so my character says, well mate if you’d do it then I’d do it – of course I’d do it. Then gay chicken happens-
Maddi: Gay chicken happens… (laughs) Full stop, that’s the answer to that question!
Emily: Maddi how does Morgan, your character, feel about that? Does she know?
Maddi: Uhhh no. She finds out.
Emily: I feel like that will be fun.
Maddi: It is! It’s great fun to play this scene unfolding where you as the actor know exactly what the character is talking about, and it’s really funny the way that DC Moore has written how Lewis delivers this information, but you kind of have to put a lid on that because Morgan doesn’t know, so you’re just telling me about a film that you’re going to make with your friend.
Sean: The writer has written it so that only Morgan doesn’t know what’s going on – everyone else knows.
Emily: Aw poor Morgan!
Maddi: It is! And then the second half of that scene is about dealing with being with someone who you thought that you knew, but then suddenly there’s this whole other side to them and all these things that they’ve not told you. There’s also an element of having a mirror held up to Morgan, by Lewis, about the way he feels about her and thinks of her as a person is actually quite different to the way that she thinks and feels about herself. Shane our director puts it that the rest of their relationship in the play is how do we get on with life, now that this has been brought up.
Emily: Because you can’t go back to the way things were before.
Maddi: Exactly. It’s that idea that when you’re with someone – I’m married, and I’ve been with my partner for 7 years - what secrets do you keep? How much do you want to know the person that you’re with and how much do you reveal about yourself? Are there those little parts of yourself that you keep?
Emily: Surely everyone has private and secret moments, you can never completely give over everything to a person I don’t think.
Maddi: Yes and Lewis and Morgan end up in this scenario where everything is on the table.
Emily: I saw Shane’s last two plays, Cock and The Pride, and I feel like he’s very good at dealing with these revelations in relationships that turn everything on their head. How has it been working with him?
Sean: It’s been really good, he’s very intelligent. I was just thinking then, what would I add to that scene had I been directing it, and I wouldn’t have said something as smart as that. (laughs)
Maddi: He’s incredibly insightful.
Sean: He understands the bigger questions, and the relatable questions – what does that then imply to your life as an actor that will allow you to play that scene with more meaning.
Emily: What elements of your life have you been able to incorporate into the play? I feel like I can assume that you haven’t been in the same situation…
Sean: Stop recording (laughs). I can identify with Waldorf in certain elements of the play, I’ve been travelling, I’ve done lots of things… (laughs) but I’ve certainly never gone to the lengths he’s gone to – I would have backed out of this gay chicken game a long time ago.
Maddi: I suppose in terms of my life it’s less about things that have happened to me and more about, what would I do if my husband was to come to me and say – not even ‘I want to make a gay porno with Graham’ (laughs) But how would I feel if there were all of these things that he was thinking and feeling that I didn’t know about. More of a ‘what if’.
Emily: This is a situation that isn’t generally socially acceptable – what assumptions about sexuality do you think this play subverts? And where do you think these assumptions come from in the first place?
Maddi: We would hope, with this play, that it’s not about sexuality. It’s about two human people having a relational moment, sharing something together.
Sean: Hopefully what it subverts is that, for a moment, two people are connected, they’re of the same sex, and that’s not a “gay” thing – and I put that in quotation marks because there’s a stigma attached to “gay”. My character Waldorf carries that stigma with him until the last two minutes until he realises that this situation isn’t about that. And people reveal this stigma all the time, saying “that’s gay” – using it as a derogatory word. But the two characters in the play have this realisation after experiencing a wonderful moment together, and then must ask what does this mean? Does this mean that we’re gay? Does this mean that we can’t be in straight relationships?
Maddi: And then there’s the question of – why does that matter?
Emily: Could it be that because Lewis is married to Morgan, they’re trying to have a baby, therefore he is dead straight – straight because he is married to a woman. But at this point Lewis is moving out of a fixed ‘box’, because a box doesn’t exist for what these two characters are doing.
Maddi: Yeah, we do have that in society, where ‘I have to be able to define you’ – why? Why does it matter? Because it’s easier for me to know what you’re going to be like if you’re gay, or bi, or trans, or straight – and it’s so stupid. Essentially, it’s just people. Hopefully we can just be, and find a connection – that’s what we’re all striving for, is that human connection.
Sean Hawkins and Maddi Jones are currently performing in Straight at the Kings Cross Theatre, alongside Danielle Cormack and Simon London. The show runs from 16 June - 2 July, click here for more details.