© 2020 by The New Current. 

"It's a joy to perform because it's the perfect play to explore, push and really show what I can do as an actor."

What do you hope to gain from your time at VAULT Festival?

RH: The chance to reach a larger audience and, hopefully, attract a diverse array of people to see the show: be they Harry Potter fans, LGBTQ+ folks, and anyone else. Learning the logistics of putting on a show is also really important for me. It’s not just writing in a garret anymore, there are tickets to sell! There’s also so much other theatre and art on at the Festival that I am trying to get to.

TW: We’re going to give audiences a highly entertaining and heart-warming 60 minutes, whilst giving them lots to talk about in the bar afterwards. Robert has wonderfully articulated so much of the richness of growing up LGBTQ+, or of living through the noughties, which will definitely resonate with the VAULTs crowd. And our actors are a dynamite ensemble who are really going to take us all there with them.

As theatre makers how important is it for you to create shows that are LGBTQ focused?

TW: It’s an honour and a privilege. We’re so lucky - there are so many LGBTQ+ stories that haven’t been told yet and audiences are really hungry for them. Sharing queer narratives inspires and frees all people to live uniquely as themselves. That’s our super power. 

RH: It is really important as we want theatre to reflect and champion the diversity of our society. It’s also very special to create LGBTQ+ theatre with LGBTQ+ people as we all bring our own experiences to the rehearsal room and stage, which adds to the nuance and depth of the production.

What has your experience of LGBTQ theatre been like before you started writing and directing?

RH: I’ve been part of the Arcola Theatre’s Queer Collective, which is amazing, and have had two shows put on with them. It’s a passionate and supportive community, exceptionally well held by the Arcola Theatre, which gives us the time, space and resources to create queer drama. It has made a huge difference in my own writing and work, much of which informs Dumbledore Is So Gay.

TW: I originally trained as an actor, but never got the opportunity to perform LGBTQ + narratives and wasn’t encouraged to do so. I started directing and writing as soon as I could, in order to reconnect with those parts of myself. Before long I realised all the factors of my identity I was told to lose or hide as an actor, were actually what made my work come alive. It’s all flavour, and I love getting opportunities to call on all of my flavours in order to entertain and challenge audiences in equal measures.

"But I'm lucky, my parents and step-parents are all quite creatively incline, and they're really big readers."

VAULT Festival | 2020
"We’re going to give audiences a highly entertaining and heart-warming 60 minutes, whilst giving them lots to talk about in the bar afterwards."
Robert Holtom & Tom Wright   
Dumbledore Is So Gay
25 Feb - 01 Mar at 18:15
Tickets
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It ain't easy being Jack. He hates French, he got sorted into Hufflepuff on the official online quiz and he's in love with his best friend Ollie. But dodging bullies, keeping secrets and trying to get the man is too much for Jack to take. So he pulls out his trusty Time Turner and does it all over again. Maybe this time he'll get into Gryffindor.

Hi Robert & Tom, thanks for talking to TNC, how are things going are you looking forward to be bringing Dumbledore is So Gay to VAULT Festival 2020?

Robert Holtom: Really excited. The VAULT Festival is just crammed with great theatre and provides lots of opportunities for new writing. Over a third of the shows are LGBTQ+ and it’s an honour to be part of that line-up.

Tom Wright: I agree! The theatre industry talks a lot about connecting with ‘new’ audiences – but VAULT have really accessed a different crowd in London who aren’t necessarily going to the theatre regularly outside of the festival, but are willing to take a risk on something new in these winding tunnels. So it feels really exciting to be able to reach them.

Dumbledore Is So Gay will be the first production you both have worked on, what has been the experience like so far?

RH: Tom and I met midway through last year to discuss the script. We’re both passionate about championing LGBTQ+ voices and soon got to work. Tom’s support has been vital in improving the script – he’s helped dig deep into the story and provided so many great editing suggestions.  

TW: Robert’s writing is deeply touching, instantly relatable and gorgeously uplifting. It’s a thrill to bring it to life with these fantastic actors. We’re laughing a lot and can’t wait to include audiences in the fun.

Is this going to lead to more theatre projects together?

RH: I hope so!

TW: This feels a bit like First Dates. Robert, close your ears… *whispers* me too…

Are there any nerves ahead of your shows run?

RH: The team is working really well at the moment and it’s all coming together. No big nerves yet but it’s only a few weeks away and still plenty to do.

TW: There’s certainly a lot of excitement. The show is building a real buzz and the glorious smiling image of Alex Britt, one of our actors, is everywhere. We’re having a fantastic time.

"It is really important as we want theatre to reflect and champion the diversity of our society."

What do you hope to gain from your time at VAULT Festival?

RH: The chance to reach a larger audience and, hopefully, attract a diverse array of people to see the show: be they Harry Potter fans, LGBTQ+ folks, and anyone else. Learning the logistics of putting on a show is also really important for me. It’s not just writing in a garret anymore, there are tickets to sell! There’s also so much other theatre and art on at the Festival that I am trying to get to.

TW: We’re going to give audiences a highly entertaining and heart-warming 60 minutes, whilst giving them lots to talk about in the bar afterwards. Robert has wonderfully articulated so much of the richness of growing up LGBTQ+, or of living through the noughties, which will definitely resonate with the VAULTs crowd. And our actors are a dynamite ensemble who are really going to take us all there with them.

As theatre makers how important is it for you to create shows that are LGBTQ focused?

TW: It’s an honour and a privilege. We’re so lucky - there are so many LGBTQ+ stories that haven’t been told yet and audiences are really hungry for them. Sharing queer narratives inspires and frees all people to live uniquely as themselves. That’s our super power. 

RH: It is really important as we want theatre to reflect and champion the diversity of our society. It’s also very special to create LGBTQ+ theatre with LGBTQ+ people as we all bring our own experiences to the rehearsal room and stage, which adds to the nuance and depth of the production.

What has your experience of LGBTQ theatre been like before you started writing and directing?

RH: I’ve been part of the Arcola Theatre’s Queer Collective, which is amazing, and have had two shows put on with them. It’s a passionate and supportive community, exceptionally well held by the Arcola Theatre, which gives us the time, space and resources to create queer drama. It has made a huge difference in my own writing and work, much of which informs Dumbledore Is So Gay.

TW: I originally trained as an actor, but never got the opportunity to perform LGBTQ + narratives and wasn’t encouraged to do so. I started directing and writing as soon as I could, in order to reconnect with those parts of myself. Before long I realised all the factors of my identity I was told to lose or hide as an actor, were actually what made my work come alive. It’s all flavour, and I love getting opportunities to call on all of my flavours in order to entertain and challenge audiences in equal measures.

Why do you think there is still a lack of theatre being created that does give time and space to the diverse voices within the LGBTQ community?

TW: Of course there are problems with larger stages embracing LGBTQ+ work, but there’s still so much of it going on that’s positive. As a community, we’ve always been good at building our own venues and sub-cultures, and that’s what’s happening in London.

RH: Reflective of the lack of resources and funding for LGBTQ+ support in the UK in general, I imagine there’s limited funding for LGBTQ+ theatre. Perhaps there is also the view that LGBTQ+ theatre is only for LGBTQ+ people, but the themes and issues, while specific, are also universal.

TW: Exactly. We will all see ourselves in Robert’s play, whomever you are: the panging heart ache of a first crush, the awkwardness of early sexual encounters, difficult conversations with ageing parents, or the tender honesty of an old friendship. There’s so much for everyone to connect with.

What was the first LGBTQ themed show you ever saw?

RH: The Invention of Love by Tom Stoppard at the Oxford Playhouse back in 2010. Although I have to confess to not having seen enough LGBTQ+ shows in the past, something I’ve been rectifying over the last few years.

TW: In theatre? Wow… I’m not sure I can remember. There would have been lots of reading before I saw anything. I still get moved when seeing queer art in ‘mainstream’ spaces. Being recognised and represented can have a really powerful effect. That’s a big motivator for me.

"Dumbledore Is So Gay is my first show that relies less heavily on genre-based conventions and tries to tell its own story."

Can you tell me a little bit about Dumbledore is So Gay, how did this play come about?

RH: One of the big inspirations was Matthew Todd’s great book, Straightjacket: How to be Gay and Happy, which outlines many of the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community at the moment, particularly for gay men. I wanted to find a way to dramatise these issues and bring them to life through story. Meanwhile, so many people identify with the Harry Potter novels and films, myself included, and slowly Jack, a gay, Harry Potter super fan, emerged as the central character.  

When writing Jack's story how much does your own self or experiences make it into your characters?

RH: My own experiences definitely inspire my writing, especially my journey as a gay and queer person. However, for Jack, I wanted to give him his own unique world with challenges similar but different to my own and to give him his own voice. We certainly have a lot in common though.

TW: I can relate hugely to elements of Jack’s story. Robert has captured the turmoil and the joy of coming-of-age in a way that’s utterly unique and truly magical.  

Have you always had a passion for theatre?

RH: Absolutely. Ever since I was a little kid directing my friends around the living room. My style was slightly authoritarian but I’ve chilled out since then.

TW: I would love to have seen a show by Robert aged 8 and a half. I think his attention to detail would have been something to admire!

Has your style and approach to your plays changed much since your debut show?

RH: My debut show, Isobel, was a dark satire about two students conspiring to kill one of their frienemies. Since then I’ve written a lot of murder mysteries, inspired by Agatha Christie, one of my favourite writers. Dumbledore Is So Gay is my first show that relies less heavily on genre-based conventions and tries to tell its own story.

TW: Each play I’ve been lucky enough to direct has demanded a very different process. That’s the fun part of directing: you have to stay on your toes. I work with lots of different writers, and my aim is always to bring out the best in their vision, whatever that entails. Robert has made my job very easy with Dumbledore Is So Gay as he’s so clear in his message and it’s something I can fully get behind. 

"The journey is unpredictable and it can take years for a show to finally come together but it’s always worth it."

Do you have a favourite theatre quote?

 

RH: It’s not a theatre-specific quote but something that’s been going around my head recently is the following quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” I dream of a better, more just world and I believe theatre and art have a vital role to play in helping us to imagine and create these better worlds.

 

TW: Try again. Fail again. Fail better. 

What has been the best advice you have been given?

RH: To be true to myself…and to spend a long time trying to figure out who I am beyond societal expectations and prejudices.

TW: Do the work. You’ll be surprised how many people miss that part!

Any advice you would offer emerging LGBTQ theatre makers?

RH: Make friends and make a team of people who can make the theatre with you. It’s incredibly tough doing this stuff alone and it’s a joy to work with others. Keep going. The journey is unpredictable and it can take years for a show to finally come together but it’s always worth it.

TW: Everything they’ve said is wrong with you – that’s what makes you special. Embrace every part of yourself and smile. The right people will come.

And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Dumbledore is So Gay?

TW
:  I hope following Jack’s story will encourage audiences to be a bit more forgiving to their younger selves. To feel pride in surviving and arriving here today. And to move them to play their part in making things easier for the generations to come.

RH: Great memories of laughter and maybe the odd tear. Hope for gay men beyond the narratives of sadness and isolation.