One of the sad things about leaving your homeland behind and heading into the sun forever is that you never get to see the amazing concerts, exhibitions and shows that London has to offer. Take Sex/Crime, for example, the brand new play at The Glory about a sex worker with a USP that is not quite ‘U’ enough for one customer. Alexis Gregory is the man behind the play and he also stars in it alongside Jonny Woo. We talk to them both about the show. Shout out to our girl Holly Revell for the exclusive photos of the handsome pair…
How did Jonny and Alexis come to work together?
Alexis: Iâ€™ve known Jonny in passing for years. He’d been to see another of my plays, â€˜Slapâ€™, where I played a crystal-meth smoking, call-girl. Then I saw him in a very hard-hitting play at The Glory called â€˜The Tell Tale Heartâ€™.Â That night Jonny asked me if Iâ€™d do something downstairs at The Glory; my fave queer venue in London. I wrote â€˜Sex/Crimeâ€™ especially.
Jonny:Â I was chatting to Alexis about him doing a play with us and a gay thriller comedy was definitely right up my street. It’s really important for The Glory to be developing new work and challenging our audience so it’s perfect for Alexis to bring his show to us. The place has always been so much more than a drag venue having already presented four plays plus installation, performance art and happening, comedy, life drawing and many bands. Gay, queer and otherwise.
The play had a few preview performances in 2017. Has it changed since then?
A: Script wise, not hugely no. The two workshop performances were real, raw, visceral, urgent and defiantly â€˜in your faceâ€™ and I wanted this run to retain all of that. However we now have stunning lighting design and a fab set; our creative team have done such a good job. My director, Robert Chevera, has fearlessly pushed the play, and Jonny and myself, to the next level. I also have budget this time around for a fancy leather face mask so thatâ€™s a def plus too.
Do you both have a favourite line from the play?Â
A: I couldnâ€™t possibly say! As the writer thatâ€™s like asking a mother to chose her favourite child! In fact thatâ€™s a line in the play; about a mother choosing her favourite child. So letâ€™s go with that one in case you think Iâ€™m a spoilsport!
Jonny, did you need to do any research in being a Dungeon Master?
J: No, but I’ve a good 20 years crawling through the sex clubs of London and New York to know a thing or two about Sub/Dom role play. Enough said.
How do you feel about appearing out of drag?
J: It’s a relief. It’s great to end a show and not to have to reach for the wet wipes! Lol. I’ve actually done several non-drag shows recently including my East London Lecture and Transformer where I channeled Lou Reed. I like both. But both on my terms. I like to play characters in and out of drag.
Does everyone think everyone they’re a drag queen these days?Â
J: Hmmmm more people are doing it I guess. The Glory’s community is pretty solid right now and thank God for all the new guys and girls exploring themselves and ideas through drag as a king or queen in our Lipsync 1000 and Man Up contests.
Will you be going back to drag?
J: My drag has always ebbed and flowed and I love dressing up. Sometimes I’m more suburban transvestite, sometimes performance/art/alt-drag. I’m enjoying shopping for drag in M&S currently. In my next show, Jonny Woo’s All Star Brexit, I’m in demi-drag, I’m definitely up for more non-drag roles. I’d love to be Iago from Othello but that might mean wearing tights so…is that drag? The bottom line is, I’m a performer above everything else and I enjoy all opportunities that offers.
Can you tell us about working with The Arts Council? How was pitching Sex/Crime to them?Â
A: I self-produce much of my own work and Iâ€™ve a good relationship with the Arts Council. This is my fifth consecutive project they’ve funded. I owe them a lot. As well as being an outrageous queer, sexy, dark comic thriller, â€˜Sex/Crimeâ€™ is laced with social and political themes and an exploration of queerness, violence, fantasy, identity, lack of moral code, redemption and transformation. Iâ€™m really pleased the Arts Council recognised this and felt that â€˜Sex/Crimeâ€™ could make a worthwhile contribution to discussions regarding all of the above.
How did you come to follow the show with a Q&A with Stephen Morris, David Stuart, Campbell X, Patrick Cash?Â
A: I curated the talks around the play. We discuss the play, its themes and the audience get involved too. The talks become events in themselves which I love. Sometimes the talks are also on specific themes; gay men committing sex crimes, current queer on-stage and screen representation, community, etc. I also hosted a queer performance night â€˜Sex/Crime/Love/Moneyâ€™ at The Glory in association with the play, with guest performers exploring the play’s themes. All of our guest speakers and performers are individuals whom I admire and Iâ€™m always thrilled when they agree to come on board.
What are you both working on next?Â
A: At the end of July I premiere my first ever solo theatre piece; â€˜Riot Actâ€™ for the King’s Head Queer Festival. I interviewed three extraordinary gay men; one of the only remaining Stonewall survivors, a sixty-five year old radical drag artist and a 1990â€™s ACT UP activist. I turned their exact words into the play and I ‘channel’ them all. These stories cover five decades of queer history and identity and also cover the present day too. Iâ€™m also working on a screen adaption of â€˜Slapâ€™ and other theatre projects.
J: My next show is Jonny Woo’s All Star Brexit which I’m taking to Edinburgh, my Un-Royal Variety now in its 3rd year at The Hackney Empire and I’m writing my memoir alongside a new solo show inspired by it. Busy busy busy.
Does Drag need to go back underground?
J: Drag still is underground.Â It’s a grass roots entertainment. Yes, to an extent it is enjoying its time in the mainstream, when that honeymoon period is over Queers will still use drag as a means to communicate and express and celebrate their difference.
What was it like working with Holly and why did you guys choose to shoot down by the canal?Â
A: I love Hollyâ€™s work and really liked her recent pictures of Scottee in the woods. Holly was beyond wondrous on the shoot with loads of references, ideas and direction. It was a treat to work with her. We shot on the canal by The Glory as I thought it would make a good urban background for Jonny to rough me up against on a Wednesday morning at 9am! Also a canal is mentioned in the play and I hoped people would recognise it as the one near to The Glory. Because it was so near, we could also hotfoot it straight into rehearsal post our shoot. Sometimes a boy has to think practically.
We ask everyone this, but we are named after the iconic Mariah song, Loverboy. Which is your favourite Mariah song?Â
A: â€˜The Roofâ€™. Thereâ€™s something about it that just gets my â€˜heart poundingâ€™ and â€˜my inner voice resoundingâ€™. I think you know just what I mean.
J:Â Will all due respect, I don’t know any of her music! Sorrrryyyyyy don’t hate me xxx
Sex/Crime is at The Glory now till the 28th April.