The actor chatted to us about starring in And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens as part of Southern Belles alongside Something Unspoken.

(c)Nick Rutter.

Hi Luke thank you so much for talking to me. How are you feeling about bringing ‘And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens’ to the stage? And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens is an incredibly beautiful, funny and moving play by one the great Queer Theatre writers Tennessee Williams. Like all his work including Streetcar, Cat in a Hot Tin Roof and Glass Menagerie, Sad Stories reflects a very particular and queer experience of the world. I am very excited to bring this lesser known piece to the London stage, especially with the fantastic team we are making this show with.

Could you tell me a bit more about what it is about? And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens is about desire, loneliness and the struggle to survive in a brutal world. These experiences are at the heart of all Tennessee Williams’ work. In the play a New Orleans queen, Candy Delaney, brings home Karl, young merchant sailor, one evening during Mardi Gras. Candy presents firstly as male and then as female in order to connect with Karl and find some intimacy in an otherwise lonely world.

What was it about the play that made you want to be involved? I can’t get enough of the work of Tennessee William and too often the queerness of his work is ignored or erased in production. This play packs in to its relatively short length all of the passion, pain, desire, humour and drama that you find in the longer, well know pieces. Candy is one of his great creations and it is both thrilling and daunting to have the chance to play this role. Sad Stories is also one of his less well known plays from later in his career. These plays are frequently dismissed by critics and artists working from the perspective of the dominant western paradigm. However I find it revealing that these later works, which are more direct about queerness, are the ones many of these artists and critics are reluctant to engage with while simultaneously claiming the earlier plays. It is exciting to be able to present a great piece of writing from a great writer as a fresh work to nearly all of our audience.

How have rehearsals been going so far? The team that our director Jamie Armitage has put together is one of the most open, generous and big hearted I have worked with and it has made exploring all the nuances and strange corners of the play possible. I am really enjoying the freedom to delve beneath the surface of this work and find the vibrating humanity, beauty and yearning that is there. The chance to genuinely find out what is going on between these characters and be surprised by what is there is rarer than it may seem.

What can audiences expect from the production? The full scope of Tennessee Williams vision is present within these two plays, Something Unspoken and And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens, which we are performing together as Southern Belles. Characters living out the fullest expression of their lives in two vibrant 45 minute bursts. The chance to be surprised by seeing a familiar milieu from an entirely new perspective. To laugh at our common human frailties and cry at the yearning for our shared need to connect, to be seen and understood, to have the chance to love and maybe even be loved in return.

How are you feeling about performing at the King’s Head Theatre? I love the intimacy of the space, the design for the show by Sarah Mercade is very beautiful and evocative – having the audience on three sides of the theatre creates a very dynamic space in the King’s Head. It puts us right in the same room as the audience, so it is much more of an experience than a presentation, something that is happening to us all together. Which is both why I go to the theatre and why I make it.

By Emma Clarendon

Southern Belles will play at the King’s Head Theatre from the 24th July until the 24th August.

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