7/27/2016 13 Comments
Interview: Denholm Spurr from The Chemsex Monologues
As sell-out success The Chemsex Monologues returns to the King’s Head Theatre from August 15-20, we speak to one of the cast, Denholm Spurr, about the play, and his own experiences being a young gay man in chemsex-era London.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm an actor, director and producer based in London. I also go to the gym a bit... Ummm, I've two degrees, is that interesting? I can cook too. Basically boyfriend material.
What drew you to the role of Nameless in the Chemsex Monologues?
Patrick Cash (the writer). But if you want other reasons I guess I'd seen several other plays on and about Chemsex but none of them had been brave enough to take the audience to the heart of the world and answer the question: what drives gay men to spend sleepless weekends on cloud nine having their brains – and hearts – fucked out of them? 'Scuse my French. Patrick's play gives an answer to this question.
As a young gay man living in London, do you feel the play is relevant to what’s going on in the city today?
Absolutely. I have no shame in saying I was sucked head first (in many ways literally) into the Chemsex scene when I arrived in London. I had been really depressed after coming out and when the first man I went home with shoved mephedrone up my nose I was like: “Wow, I feel incredible”. It was the magic answer to all of my problems: suddenly the world loved me being gay, loved my sexual desires. But what was originally a solace quickly became a prison: the real world isn't like this and the draw to return to 'forgetting' every weekend was overwhelming, despite the two day hangover... I mean, three days... Sorry, four.... Wait, what does it feel like to be happy and sober again?
Do you have any opinions on why such a large cross-section of gay men appear to get involved in the chemsex scene?
There's a lot of pressure on gay men to be highly sexual, and to be desired physically. Add this to feelings of self-loathing from growing up in a heteronormative world, and living in a community still dealing with the fallout of the AIDS crisis, and you've got a perfect boiling pot to make any person go off the rails when things get a bit tough. I’m not saying sex and drugs have to be used badly - I have plenty of friends who are able to use them for 'enhancement' rather than 'escapism' - the problem is there's plenty who aren't and from thereon in it's a slippery slope.
We hear the play is funny as well as serious: how does it find humour in what are often dark issues?
Because it has to find humour, right?! What makes Mercutio so tragic in Romeo & Juliet? Because he's so entertaining and funny and he does this to hide his flaws, making him all the more human. There are also some pretty ridiculous things that happen at chillouts.
Why do you think the play should be seen by a straight/mixed audience as well as a gay male audience?
It's directed by a straight man for a start – Luke Davies' ability to tap into the motivation of these characters shows that the trials faced by gay men in modern society are not just relatable to the LGBT minority. What Patrick has done so brilliantly is explore every facet of the phenomenon, from he who dabbles occasionally in Chemsex but stays in control, to the sexual health worker who attends his first chillout – there's even a straight female monologue! Why would a woman want to go to one of these parties?! It's got it all.
And finally, what would you ideally like a spectator to leave the play feeling?
That having chemsex and taking drugs doesn't make you a somehow lesser, disgusting or evil person. Hopefully they’ll leave feeling like they understand why people might be driven to take such risks with their own safety and how they might be able to support people around them with acceptance.
The Chemsex Monologues is at the King’s Head Theatre (115 Upper Street, N1 1QN) from 15-20th August at 9.45pm. £18 (£15 concs), £10 previews on Monday 15th. Booking: www.kingsheadtheatre.com
The Chemsex Monologues is being published by Oberon Books for this run. To pre-order a copy, follow this link: http://oberonbooks.com/chemsex-monologues
Denholm will also be appearing in Simon Blow’s ‘The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor’ from 2nd-27th August at the Old Red Lion Theatre (418 St John Street, EC1V 4NJ): www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/the-past-is-a-tattooed-sailor.html
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