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David Patterson - interview

Soon to be playing at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre, The Old Queen's Head is written by and starring David Patterson, as his character tells the story of writing a letter to his ex-boyfriend in a desperate bid to get him back. Searching for affirmation and self-worth through the complexities of queer identity in relationships, the late Queen Elizabeth II offers some advice of her own.


David has kindly told us a bit more about his piece, so make sure to read on to hear all about it.

 

What is The Old Queen's Head about, and what inspired you to write the piece to star in?

At one level, it’s about grappling with how people we fall in love with change us, and accepting the person we become as a result. At another, it’s about one man’s journey to self-acceptance and the gratitude he comes to find for those who helped him along the way. At its heart, it’s about finding queer joy and celebrating authenticity. As for what inspired me, basically I got dumped– but the relationship was a catalyst for learning invaluable lessons about myself.



How have you found the writing and development process of the show, and what preparation have you done for becoming your part?

It’s taught me a lot. The piece has gone through so many drafts because when you start writing you’re still not certain what the story is, but overtime it becomes clearer and with each round of revisions it gets – hopefully – better. Developing the show has been humbling; I’ve learned to let go of my certainty about what I’m trying to create and trust the process will produce the right story. Getting feedback from people you trust, early, is vital. Then the characters take on a life of their own and pull the story in new and interesting directions.


As for preparation, it’s been about understanding how these characters relate to the central tenet of authenticity and then letting them argue it out in my head and trying to show that. You end up spending a lot of time with these people.



Why did you choose to challenge the themes of relationships, personal growth and identity in your script?

Everyone understands the difficulty of trying to find and live true to their authentic self. For queer people it’s a very particular struggle, but it applies to everyone. At times, I’ve found myself confused over whether I want to be like someone, or be with them. I’m sure that’s true for lots of people, but for me the relationships I’ve had in my life have taught me a lot about how I want to live my life and that’s something that I think is worth sharing. As for why I chose to write about that, I didn’t really – I just found that when I started writing, these are the things that came up, so they must be on my mind.



How do you personally connect with the character that you are playing?

The character and the events in the play are inspired by experiences and ways of dealing with being in the closet that I had in my own life. So, there’s a lot of stuff that resonates because I remember it, but rather than being a complete account of things, it’s more about trying to show how they felt. My friend gave me some advice on an early draft that I found invaluable; “Don’t write who these people are, write what they mean.” Meaning, write how they relate to the central question. That really helped tighten things and give the story a life of its own – which is quite an odd thing to observe happening.




Particularly as a solo show, what effect does having the Queen involved have, and how does it help to tell the narrative?

The Queen drives the narrative forward as she acts in opposition to the main character. She is the voice in his head trying, albeit misguidedly, to keep him safe and deter him from making certain choices. She didn’t start out that way. But as the story evolved it became clear she had to be a source of conflict to drive the story forward – something of a difficult departure from my own, probably quite unusual, admiration for the late monarch. But, it was fascinating to interrogate my own feelings towards the late Queen, and to find they were perhaps more complicated than even I realised.




What role does humour play in the performance and how have you developed your storytelling skills to engage audiences?

This sounds mad, but it’s true. Once when I was going through a tough time a few years ago, I went out for a walk and just happened to stop and look down at my feet. There was a wee business card on the ground, blank except for the phrase: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” It was bizarre, but it cheered me right up and I still have the wee card. Humour is central to the play, balancing the more challenging moments and keeping the audience entertained. Fundamentally, that’s what I want to do with this piece: entertain people. I think that humour reminds us to stay hopeful. That, and so many absurd things happen every day that you can’t help but gut yourself with laughter. I tell lots of daft wee stories all the time, and I enjoy thinking on my feet and bringing the audience with me.



What emotions do you intend to provoke throughout the performance?

Hopefulness and joy, and a little reflection.



How does the show provide important conversation about LGBTQ+ issues and how can the arts industry further push for representation of the community going forwards?

I’m not sure I have lofty aims with this really. I think a lot of queer creatives struggle with the notion of “is it queer enough?”, I certainly have at points. But I think so long as you’re aiming for a story that is truthful, and told well, you can’t go wrong. And if you do, well, the next one will be better for it. So long as the arts continue to give queer people the space to tell their own stories, the canon will grow, and more people will find themselves reflected in the art around them.



In theme with the reflections in the production, how would you describe your past, present and future in a line for each?

My past lives with me, but I learn from it all the time. My present is consumed with this show. My future is hopeful, so long as I have pals to laugh about it all with.


 

Such a great interview from David, thanks so much for sharing more about your show - it sounds brilliant, as do you. Best of luck with the run!


Get your tickets to The Old Queen's Head here:




Additional thanks to Cara Mahoney for coordinating this interview.


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