Thursday, 31 January 2013

Nigel Fairs

photo by Lisa Bowerman
The name Nigel Fairs seems to have been cropping up increasingly often in my posts recently so I thought I should find out more about him.

Actor, writer, director and composer, Brighton-based Nigel is certainly versatile. He originally graduated from Bretton Hall in 1984 and since then has had over thirty of his plays produced. He has also written and composed extensively for Big Finish who produce audio dramas and serials. Previous performances locally have included In Conversation With An Acid Bath Murderer and My Gay Best Friend. We have three very different opportunities to see his work in Eastbourne during February. See the end of the post for details ...

I first asked Nigel w
hat inspired My Gay Best Friend?

NF: Louise Jameson, really! She and I have worked together a lot – I met her when I wrote an audio drama for her about eight years ago and we’ve collaborated on many theatrical, audio and video ventures since. MY GAY BEST FRIEND was the first thing we’d written together.  We took ourselves off to Cornwall for five days with the notion of exploring the relationship between women of a certain age and their gay best friends, wrote a lot, walked a lot, drank, laugh and wept a lot and by the end of the train journey home we had a play!!  It’s not really changed an awful lot since then, though our director, Ronnie Roberts, made some quite brilliant cuts and suggestions, which really benefited the piece as a whole. 
It’s a challenge to perform – such an emotional rollercoaster – but I love it.  We got back this morning from two sell-out houses in Hull; there were laughs, there were tears!  We thought we might have got it a bit right when we won an award at the Brighton Festival last year, but it’s been quite a relief to have it go down so well in the provinces!!
tE: How did you get involved with Bootcamp Theatre?
NF: Steve Scott, who runs Bootcamp, was looking for a director for SECRET HONOUR, his one man show about Richard Nixon, and he asked me to do it.  I had such a good time directing him that I immediately said I’d be delighted to work on BENT, which, again, has been a surprisingly inspiring project.
tE: My Gay Best Friend and Bent are very different plays. How have you approached the challenge of working on them both at the same time?
NF: I’m actually working on five plays all at the same time!  I’m directing BENT and LARRY, Mark Burgess’s superb one-man show about Laurence Oliver, I’m operating the sound and lights for Lou’s one woman show about plastic surgery, PULLING FACES and  I’m performing in MY GAY BEST FRIEND and IN EXTREMIS, a wonderful play about Oscar Wilde the night before the Queensbury trial (I play Wilde). All have been performed or are going to be performed in Eastbourne at some point!

As regarding the challenge of working on all of them at the same time, I try to concentrate on one per day, though often I’ve been performing as Oscar during the day and directing BENT at night, or vice versa, which has been interesting!  What has been fascinating is that three out of the five involve gay issues and characters at various points in history.  Playing Oscar in particular has really driven home to me how important it is for us all to fight bigotry and ignorance.  In our so-called ‘enlightened’ age I find it obscene that some hateful voices are given credence, and often-misinterpreted religious writings offered as ‘proof’ that the ignorant are ‘right’. What I’ve found wonderfully inspiring whilst touring both plays is that the vast majority of people aren’t homophobic idiots, that’s just a very vocal and ill-informed minority.
tE: You've also been involved in a number of audio CD dramas. Do approach your performances differently for a purely aural audience?
NF: No, it’s the same process.  As an actor, you concentrate on your character’s past, present and potential future truth and that’s what you play, whether you’re on stage, film, tv or radio. The performances are technically different, obviously – if you gave the same performance on the telly as you did on stage at the National, you’d look ridiculous! But that’s just a question of style.  The pursuit of truth is absolutely the same, and very exciting, whether performing or directing.
tE: What's next for Nigel Fairs?
NF: I’ve got a new musical, CRUISING, that premiers at this year’s Brighton Festival in May (a 60s sci-fi diva finds herself stuck on a cruise ship with her husband, 200 fans and her ex-girlfriend!),   Lou and I are writing a DR WHO audio together for Big Finish (I’m writing another BLAKE’S SEVEN for them as well), I write and perform a new murder mystery every month for the Arundel Jailhouse (always set in the same Cornish village – it’s a ‘murder soap’ that’s been running for nearly three years now!) and we’re touring MY GAY BEST FRIEND and IN EXTREMIS until May. So fairly busy!
Oh, and I’m also trying to help create a baby with a gorgeous lesbian couple at the moment, which is where you find my character at the start of MY GAY BEST FRIEND!  Come see!

In Extremis, Under Ground Theatre, Sun 3rd Feb, 15:00.
My Gay Best Friend, Under Ground Theatre, Thu 14th Feb, 19:45.
Bent, The Little Theatre, Wed 27th Feb - Sat 2nd Mar, 19:45.