Interview: Peter Darney

Peter Darney has directed The Drag, currently on at The Arcola Theatre under their Queer Collective banner.  This week we ran a brief Q and A with him to find out a little more about this show, and why you might not want to miss it.

Interview by Amie Taylor

AT: Peter, first of all could you tell us a little about yourself, how you came to be a director and how you came to work with The Arcola on this project?

PD: Hi, I am Peter, I am a director, a writer and an adapter. I started out as an actor, but realised after 5 great years that I wanted more creative control than I felt that role gave me, so I retrained as a director. I have been writing and directing ever since.

I came across “The Drag” back at drama school when one Christmas it turned up in my stocking- found by Santa in a bargain bookshop! I was intrigued- I had heard of Mae West but hadn’t known she was a playwright first. I thought it would be a cool project, but it needed such a large cast I knew it would be really tricky to put on, so stored it away in the recesses of my head. Many years later I was sat watching (and being blown away by) the Queer Collectives “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and thought, hmm… I met with Nick and suggested “The Drag” to him, and here we are.

AT: Why this piece and why now?

PD: Last night I was at a dinner party, and sat opposite me was an intelligent, friendly and articulate young gay man. As we compared our (vastly different) experiences of growing up gay, my heart warmed at how much easier life has become for some people. But I was also surprised that he didn’t know how recently a lot of the rights he takes for granted have come about. I think it is vital, as Europe and the USA, and indeed the UK lurch massively to the right and with all the threats as a community we face, that we know how hard fought the battles for equality were, and that we don’t give an inch of ground but keep moving forward. We need to know our Queer History!

It took brave, outspoken risk takers like Mae West, daring to say 2 men could be in love, arguing that people might just be born gay and that’s OK, to get us to where we are today. To keep moving forward, we need to respect the past. This play was a part of that fight, and shows us a recent world where gay life was massively more difficult.

AT: Can you describe it in 6 words?

PD: Seminal, Stifling, Liberating, Quirky, Queer, Sassy.

AT: Who are you targeting in terms of audience for this piece?

PD: Love, repression, liberation, the pressure of conformity and how we have community are universal issues. So we are targeting everyone.

AT: What do you hope people will take away from watching?

PD: That shit goes wrong for you and everyone around you if you are not true to yourself, or force others not to be true to themselves.

That being gay, expressing yourself, and being part of a community can be fabulous and fun- and that suits aren’t just for boys and dresses aren’t just for girls.

That some brave, sassy people-regardless of their own sexuality, stuck their necks out and took a lot of personal risks to win us the freedom’s we have today.

AT: Anything else we should know about this production?

PD: This is the first, and only, performance outside of the USA since its inception in 1927. Miss it now and you may need to wait another 90 years to get your chance!

Showing until 13th January 2017. Booking.

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