All of us came from dysfunctional families and gravitated towards the bright lights of Central London to escape suburban alienation and create a new family. I guess Taboo is Dick Whittington meets Valley of the Dolls, with bigger hair. A family, of like-minded freaks. I had the most fun writing the opening tune, 'Ode to Attention Seekers' which is a tribute to my oldest friend Philip Sallon, who to my mind is the mother of all freaks. When I first met Philip, I was a sixteen year old with a girlfriend called Laura and as soon as I saw this vision in pit boots, a velvet skirt, hair shaped into devil horns and punky black lips, I knew my life would never be the same.
One of the reasons I avoided doing an 80's retro show and decided to write a new score, was because I wanted to give those friends and fellow freaks who helped to shape my mad existence, a voice and to hopefully turn them into household names. The other reason I avoided centering the show soley around myself was because there were so many incredible characters in my opinion deserved to have a spotlight shone on them. Leigh Bowery, for example, an Australian from the outback who was a living work of art. Hence the Song, 'Ich Bin Kuntz', which might sound rather rude but is German for, 'I am art'. Well, I once said of Leigh, "If a pile of bricks can be art then he most certainly was".
The portrayal of Leigh by genius comic Matt Lucas, who can be anyone from Geri Halliwell to Shirley Bassey, has made me gasp nightly as we struggle through our previous towards our big opening night on the 29th, I've even heard that Matt is walking around nightclubs, talking in the real Bowery's elongated camp voice. As Quinten Crisp, the other mother of it all once said, "Drag is a drug, you get addicted".
Taboo is a colourful postcard of an era that is much maligned, the 80's, the Thatcher years, a time of excess and greed but despite or because of the political climate. 'Turn to the right' ooh fa fa fa fa Facism, there was something to rally against that was the fun part of that era. Walk around Soho today – in fact mince down Old Compton Street and you can see that some parts of London have changed beyond recognition. I jokingly call Soho - So-Homo, but most of the young homosexuals that frequent the milleux of bars and clubs, have no sense of their history or how their freedom was won. I remember Philip Sallon being marched out of Heaven Nightclub, in the 70’s when it was known as The Global Village, for turning up in swimming trunks and green hair. These days, Heaven is a sea of naked flesh. I'm not suggesting that dressing up is some divine political gesture but when I first came out in the 70's, everyone looked like Burt Reynolds, with the check shirt and obligatory tache. The gay scene back then, was horribly uptight and offended by anyone who wanted to spoil its desperate bid for assimilation. We were, like Quinten in his day, 'Spoiling it, for the others'.
Backstage at Taboo, is spookily reminiscent of my early clubbinq and squatting days and watchinq the make-up being applied and the alter egos spring forth in devilish fashion is, beyond camp. Suddenly, everyone's sexuality becomes suspect and the male peacocks start fanning their feathers. Mark Magee, who plays Marilyn, turns into the most beautiful girl and all the mirrors swoon. He moves rather too well in stilettos but I've met his girlfriend. The show centres around a boy meets girl story but Billy played by Luke Evans is a kind of metaphorical mix of all the boys I've loved and lost. He comes to the city with a head full of dreams and uses and abuses everyone. In the first draft, I was quite keen on him ending up with me but in my experience, being a confirmed 'hetro-hag', the boy always goes back to the girl. I didn't get my way on that part of the script but Mark Davis, who wrote the book, worked out an interesting compromise. The show deals with homosexuality, or sexual confusion, without harping on about it because in my opinion, we are all a multitude of sexual possibilities. The fact that we are all a bit queer and a bit straight, is rightly or wrongly assumed.
Getting the first license for a non-theatrical space in seventy-five years from Westminster council was a triumph because once we found our location, we all became obsessed that it was the only place we could hold the show. The venue, is in fact the crypt of the Notre Dame Church and convincing the priests to allow the show to take place there was a lot easier than I expected. This involved showing them a video of our original workshop with dialogue that would make a hooker blush. Clearly not all Catholics are repressed! The auditions were hysterical at time, I've never heard so many renditions of 'Fame' or 'I Will Survive', but we saw some amazing performers but searching for actors who resembled the key and real life characters was no mean feat. Philip Sallon, has to take full credit for the casting of Euan Morton as me because he spotted him in the workshop in another role and dragged to one side and said, "He's you". Looking at Euan in the full drag, is spooky to say the least. He kept asking me for videos but I told him not to bother, he already had me down to a cup of tea. The real Marilyn, not Monroe, I'm talking Peter Robinson, hasn't shown his face yet but he sent along an envoy to check out his mirror image. His response was typical, "I hear he's good but not as pretty as me". Oh well, some things never change.
The mother role played by veteran actress Gemma Craven, is also pivotal because every freak has a mother. I guess the role is based on my own mum, only my stage mother gets emancipated and joins the freaks. If only this art imitated real life. My parents divorced last year after forty-three years, better late than never. Don't get me wrong, I love them both but their union has shaped my psychotic love life and I’ve given them more than their fair share of grief. The family aspect of Taboo, mirrors my life but most of the characters come from planet dysfunction. We put the 'Func' in dysfunction and the eyeliner on the one-liner. The clothes we wore were a kind of armour and a way of sticking two fingers up to a world that had told us for too long we didn't belong in it. The real Taboo club run by the sadly departed Leigh Bowery was also a world of exclusion so I guess what goes around, comes around. In the end, the truth is, that we were all desperate to be loved, hence the desire for fame and attention. Some kick and scream for love while others conform and the moral of the tale, if there is one, is that sooner or later you have to take off the make-up and face yourself. Now there's a scary thought. I’ll leave the final world to our master of ceremonies, Philip Sallon, "Thank you for leaving, lose my number".