Gypsy Queen – 28th/29th July 2017, Unity Theatre, Liverpool
Can two men raised to fight ever learn to love?
With 2 boxers, from completely different walks of life, a gypsy traveller “gorgeous” George O’Connell, who uses his skills in street brawling, is recruited to become professionally coached by a local gym owner. He is happy with his life, until another boxer Dane “the pain” Sampson who is openly gay makes an unexpected move on him in the locker rooms. With Georges life turned upside down, he struggles with his own sexuality and growing love for Dane. With tragedy round the corner for the pair, it truly is a modern day Romeo and Juliet.
With just two actors portraying all of the characters in the story, the script wows the audience with charm, warmth and some genuinely hilarious moments and one liners that had the audience constantly entertained throughout. The pair struggle throughout, trying to come to terms with their own unique relationship, their relationship with their families and the pressures and prejudices that plague their professional lives.
The set, designed by Meriel Pym, is just a lone changing room bench, which was repositioned frequently throughout the play to portray various locations – from homes, to hospital bed. This was much to the amusement of the audience as it was done so while the actors were still in character, incorporating it into the play, giving it a constant flow.
Rob Ward centrally plays Gorgeous George who exudes a very loud confidence that could only be associated with the traveller lifestyle; with Ryan Clayton balancing out the strong personality of George with a very composed performance as Dane, played with a sensitive vulnerability. The true hero though was Clayton’s performance of Mrs O’Connell, Georges mother, a devote Irish Catholic, who very much favours the use of explicits as terms of endearments.
With its many ups and downs throughout, I wiped away a tear as the play came to an unexpected and emotional close, with both men admitting their love in the most of tragic ways.
The play was a well written piece of work, that entertained, shocked and in the end was gifted by a standing ovation that it truly deserved.
Interview with Rob Ward – Writer/Producer/Actor
How are the cast finding the roles?
It’s been loads of fun, playing around with different ideas. Its a multirole play, so I am playing 4 roles, and I think Ryan is playing 5 roles. We have found that the key to it is finding the essence of each character.
We both play Danes father, and one of the themes of the play is “sins of the father repeat on the son.” The lack of father figure in both of their lives, even though Danes father is alive, so I thought it would be interesting if we both played that role.
Do you think the cast is a good fit for the roles they play?
You get yourself physically prepared to play someone who is very different from you, I mean, one of my roles is a gyspy traveller who is also a boxer, personally I don’t have much experience in that respect. All you can do is just work hard and prep as much as you can. I know that one of Ryans roles is that of an Irish Catholic Mother.
Ryan – “I watched a lot of big fat gypsy wedding leading up to this”
Do you think the audience will be able to relate to the themes of the play?
Well, what I like to do is put LGBT characters on stage that you wouldn’t normally see. Its not a gay love story, but just a love story. Yes it features LGBT characters, but I wouldn’t want an audience to feel they couldn’t come see it because they felt like they couldn’t connect. It is a unconventional love story because of how they come together, with no real gay sports role models, I think the audience will be able to relate to the story, even though it is such an unknown world.
Can you relate to the themes of the play?
I am gay myself, and a big sports fan. For many years growing up it felt unusual, like I was growing up in the wrong place. Once I reconciled who I was and looking back on my journey, I knew it was something that I would have to write about.
How long did it take to write?
About 3 years ago I wrote a short play called Champion, which was a out 2 gay boxers. It was a short piece that was part of a bigger night called To Russia With Love. It was around the time that Russia brought in the legislation that was very similar to our section 28 in the 80’s and 90’s, as well as being around the time of the Winter Olympics which was to be help in Russia. So around that time me, Adam (the director), Steven Hornby and Chris Hoyle (both Manchester play writes) put on the show. I have always wanted to expand it further though, I could just never find the right angle. Then fast forward a few years and Tyson Fury who is from a traveller background like the character George made a lot of homophobic comments, which also happened to be around the time of him being nominated for “sports personality of the year”. There was basically a “fury about fury”. But it gave me my into it, that was to be my angle.