‘Biting the Fruit’ has been a long time coming. It started with an idea in my head for an entirely different play, but it soon became clear that that was far too ambitious (and not very good). In the first lockdown, when all I had was time to write, I stripped that idea down to its basics – two men, caught in a queer relationship – and relocated the play from some vague American setting to a private club in the middle of London. Suddenly, it started to make sense; the characters were speaking how I wanted them to, the history and politics that I knew began to bleed into the play.
It was finished in August 2020. First Theatre Company agreed to put it on back when I was a mere artistic director. Three terms, one Zoom play, and a presidency later, and it’s finally being put on. We had opportunities to do it online, and got given a slot to do it live in July – but it wasn’t right. We needed to wait for the right cast, the right crew, the right venue, and the right time.
That time is now.
This play means many things to me. It’s a delve into recent British queer history that still impacts the community, in a time when most queer media is either American or a period piece (this play was written before ‘It’s a Sin’, Russell T Davies copied me). The research that went into this play was often gruelling, watching homophobic speeches and reading tragic accounts of gay life in the 80s. But it was also liberating; I saw my community fight back, and protest, and survive. It is a link to a queer past.
This play means many things to me. It’s an external representation of how I, a bisexual man, can sometimes feel about my sexuality. I sometimes (problematically) visualise it as two halves – a gay half and a straight side, both uncomfortable with the other, both fighting for its own space. The play, with the gay David and the straight (or is he?) George, reflects this internal duel, and brings it to the forefront, searching for possible reconciliation.
This play means many things to me. It’s an adamant declaration of support for queer theatre, so rarely seen in Durham. As an actor, I have played more paedophiles than I have queer men, and ‘Biting the Fruit’ is one of the very few queer plays to be put on in my time at Durham. With this play, 1tc is proudly championing queer stories, and our plans for the rest of the year will continue this.
But at its core, and most crucially, the play is about connection. It’s about two men who haven’t seen each other in twenty years, walking into a room where nobody can overhear them, and baring their souls. After all of the verbal sparring and vicious insults, it is ultimately about two men trying to make sense of their own past and understand the other’s present. It is about two men experiencing the difficulties and pain of trying to connect with someone you loved long ago – and about the urge, the need, to try anyway.
1tc is a theatre company dedicated to giving first-time directors and producers a route into DST. It has been a privilege watching the crew grow into their roles, grappling with this sometimes difficult material with maturity and care. Maddie and Brooke, as co-directors, have been pinnacles of professionalism, as has all of the crew. Auditions were incredibly difficult, and so many talented individuals showed what they could do with the characters. Ultimately, however, it could only have been Diogo and George. Their knowledge of the characters and chemistry with each other has lifted the play to new heights. The readthrough, with the two of them reading my words aloud for the first time, was something truly special. I also have to give thanks to two separate 1tc execs, for supporting this play through thick and thin, and Hatfield College for hosting us.
I cannot wait for people to finally, after all this time, see this play, and support queer theatre. Bite that fruit.