Willy Hudson is currently up in Edinburgh with his show Bottom, which explores the sexual politics of being queer and out on the scene, particularly the top / bottom politics for gay men. It’s an insight in to a world that many will identify closely with, and for those that don’t, it’s an opportunity to learn something. It was really wonderful to catch up with Willy over the weekend to find out more about his show.
Interview © Amie Taylor
AT: Tell us a little about you and how you came to be a performer and work in theatre
WH: I’m from Exeter in Devon and I’m based between there and London. I did drama at Manchester Uni and then went to Oxford School of Drama and did the one year course from which I graduated in September. I’ve been working on this show for a couple years, it’s the first show I’ve made and written. The show Bottom was born through a workshop I went to, led by Bryony Kimmings. I was putting it together in bits, through working at the Exeter Phoenix, The Bikeshed, Ferment at The Bristol Old Vic and Camden People’s Theatre in London.
AT: You’ve mentioned that the show started through a Bryony Kimmings workshop, tell us a bit more about where the initial impetus came from to make this piece and what was the inspiration for it?
WH: About four years ago I moved to London and got lost in this world of taking drugs and partying and making stupid decisions and it was having an effect on my relationships. I was also having a crisis of identity with this idea of ‘Top or Bottom’ in sexual politics, which impacted my wider position in queer and gay culture. And this started to have a big impact on me, I was getting erectile dysfunction, I was having lots of one night stands and empty relationships. And while all this was going on I did the Bryony Kimming’s workshop, and her workshop is so focussed on using your own experience as the source. So ‘Top or Bottom?’ became the question of the show, I spend the whole show trying to work out what that question means and what the answer is.
AT: And how’s it been for you making something that’s so personal?
WH: It’s been the most amazing thing I could ever have imagined. It started off a bit like therapy. Through writing about all of this stuff that was happening to me gave me massive perspective on it and it helped me further shape the show and find resolutions within both myself and the show. It’s boosted my confidence in everything that I’m doing, and it’s a really powerful thing. I’ve since run a couple of workshops on writing, not to perform, but as a way to process stuff. It has also been a nerve-wracking show to perform; as an actor I’m familiar with standing on stage and saying other people’s words, but there’s a vulnerability in standing up there and saying something you’ve written.
AT: And what made you decide to do the Fringe this year?
WH: It just felt like it was the right time for this piece. I felt like there wasn’t really anything holding me back and it didn’t feel like it needed to wait any longer.
AT: Who is the audience you were bearing in mind for this piece?
WH: It has evolved throughout the process of making it, originally it was written as if it was for an audience that didn’t understand all of this stuff I was talking about, so it was for a heterosexual audience, but now it functions in both places, because it’s so very much for queer people to see this show and feel as though they can completely relate to the content; it’s targeting the queer audience to understand and empathise with the story and what’s going on. But also for a non-queer identifying audience to think ‘I didn’t know half of this stuff,’ and that’s been reflected in the reviews and the audience response. I’ve had some lovely messages from people who have told me that I’ve stood up on stage and told their story, but on the other hand people that have fed-back that they didn’t even know this stuff existed.
AT: And even people within the queer community might not know about this stuff –
WH: Yes. Queer is such a broad term, with so many different experiences. And I’ve tried to make it a really inclusive space because I think there’s a problem with making queer work for just queer people which can possibly even further alienate us. I understand there’s an argument that there should be a platform for that – with which I agree, but I also think, within my practice at least, that I want to bring everybody in the room together.
AT: Is there anything else we should know about this show?
WH: Just that it has a lot of Beyoncé in it!
Bottom is on at Summerhall – Cairns Lecture Theatre (26) until 26th Aug, 16:25. (Not performing 20th)
Image © Joe Magowan