Grant Smeaton on Martin O'Connor's Ch Ch Changes at part of Glasgay! 2011
The writer and actor on his upcoming one-man show
What drew you to Martin O’Connor’s script for Ch Ch Changes?
I’ve been thinking about doing a one-man show for a long time. Never done one before. The nearest was the solo performance I did in Spend a Penny at the Arches a few years ago where my transsexual character gave a 10-minute monologue to a one person audience in a cubicle in the ladies toilet! And I’d seen Martin’s show Playing Houses at Glasgay! a couple of years ago and some of his previous work and loved the way his characters communicated directly with the audience. We had a meeting and up popped the idea for Ch Ch Changes.
In the show you play five different characters of different sexes and genders. Did you find some of these characters more of a challenge to inhabit than others?
The characters at the moment are all coming along at about the same rate. It’s the way the script is delivered that creates the challenge. For example, one of the characters is a cross-dressing man who speaks directly to the audience about his life told through the outfits that his female persona wears. It’s very story telling and at the moment feels very fluid and comfortable. Another character is a man who is leaving his wife and young son and collecting the last of his belongings from the family home. It’s brilliantly written as a moment-by-moment account from the time he enters the house until he leaves. It’s much more of an internal dialogue with himself, which is more of a challenge to perform.
The show spans several decades – did you have to do much period research or was the period detail all in the script?
The characters are all here in the present. But they tell the stories of their sexuality through the last few decades. Martin interviewed lots of people who had a story to tell and has woven those stories into the characters in the play. So all the detail comes straight from real life.
Were you surprised by the huge and ongoing success of Bette/Cavett?
Haha! Kind of. The idea to take an old television interview with Bette Davis and slap it pretty much verbatim onto a theatre stage with me playing Bette Davis was a bit of a gamble! But I just had a feeling that it could work. There was something I really loved about the interview – the chemistry between Dick Cavett and Davis – and I wanted to see if an audience could watch it as a piece of theatre but also sort of forget themselves and experience the original interview at the same time. It is also always incredibly enjoyable to perform – and in my experience, when that happens, you’re usually on to a winner.
Ch Ch Changes, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 25 Oct–Sat 12 Nov.