The last time I met Simon Jay, he talked about How To Survive Being Attacked With a Miniature Flame-Thrower For Being Gay. In other words, he was plugging his autobiography – Bastardography.
“Remind me,” I asked him yesterday in the Soho Theatre Bar, “why are we meeting up?”
“I dunno,” replied Simon.
“Neither do I… How’s your book going?”
“Very well, It’s coming out in paperback next year. I have to go to Belfast to finish it. I’m writing two new chapters for the paperback edition.”
“I don’t ask these questions. I’m getting a free trip to Belfast. Who could say No to that?”
“They’ve started killing each other again,” I told him. “But you really want to tell me about the play you’re doing.”
“Yes. I saw some Event thing on Facebook.”
“Universally Speaking,” said Simon. “It’s five monologues. Originally it was written for IdeasTap. They asked me to direct these prize-winning plays, but then they went out of business. But I’m directing and producing them anyway in October for charity – for the UN Refugee Agency.
“I’m also developing another play – a one-man Titus Andronicus written by Peter John Cooper – possibly at the Southwark Playhouse and we’re looking for funding, because we’re going to get a ‘Name’ to star in it. Our money limit is Martin Clunes. We know we can afford him. Do you want to hear who else is on the short list? Warwick Davis, Matt Lucas, David Mitchell.”
“Warwick Davis is on the shortlist for Titus Andronicus?” I asked.
“It’s seen from the clown’s perspective,” explained Simon. “He only has about six lines in the original, but everything in this new play is seen from his perspective. It’s a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. All the bits we haven’t seen.”
“You could see if the Soho Theatre is interested,” I suggested.
“I don’t think they’d touch it with a barge pole.”
“Because it’s intellectual with a small ‘i’ – it’s harking back to a sort of different, older kind of one-man show. It’s more in the tradition of when John Gielgud used to do The Seven Ages of Man… but this time it’s with Martin Clunes.”
“Would you take it to the Edinburgh Fringe?”
“A serious one?”
“Semi-comedy-serious. It’s satire, but it still tells a story, like Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho.”
“Hilary Clinton,” I asked, “would be played by…?”
“Me,” said Simon, “obviously.”
“Obviously,” I said.
“I suggested it to Battersea Arts Centre,” Simon told me, “and they rejected it. I think people are a bit worried about doing a big, prominent American politician. The whole impetus behind the show was…
“…you wanted to dress up as a woman,” I suggested.
“Well, that, obviously,” agreed Simon. “But also I don’t think UK audiences have a very good engagement in American politics. They don’t understand Primaries; they don’t understand how to win states; they don’t understand how she could still be with Bill after he’s shagged half the world. It’s a good fun story.”
“Do you have a title for the show?”
“Yes… It’s Hilary, Bitch!”
“What’s the poster going to be?”
“A big picture of Hilary, maybe astride a bomb or having a Wikileak. It’s going to be very camp.”
“Surely not?” I said.
“…and she sings as well,” Simon added.
“It’s a musical?”
“They do all manner of stupid things to get elected. She danced on a show with Ellen DeGeneres… I’m not against Hilary per se. I want to assassinate her at the end, but I think that might be a bit…
“It’s the American way,” I said.
“The reason Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho worked so well,” said Simon, “is it’s not just a drag Thatcher. There’s a good story as well: about Section 28. I’m not copying. It’s SO different, because it’s about American politics and it’s a living figure, so it will be updated. I’m really worried Hilary might not win the Primary. If she doesn’t, then the idea might change to Jeremy Corbyn: The Musical.”
“And your third show next year,” I asked, “is…?”
“It’s called The Best Sex of Our Lives. I’ve been commissioned to write and direct it by a man called Rich in Sussex who came and saw my show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in 2013 and said I want you to write me a drag act and he paid me a couple of grand to write a full-length drag show but, once I had finished writing it, he was like: It’s really good, but I don’t want to do that any more. I want you to edit a novel I’m writing. Another couple of grand. Edited the novel. He said: I’m not writing the novel any more. Can you write an Edinburgh Fringe show? Cost everything for me and I’ll pay it. So I’ve written it. but now he’s being iffy again. So it might not happen but, if it gets to the point where we put it in the Fringe Programme, then we’ll do it.”
“What’s it about?” I asked.
“The A-Z of sex. All the different sexual practices.”
“What’s Z?” I asked. “Zebra?”
“It IS zebra. Do you know what ‘furries’ are?”
“Not necessarily,” I said.
“People who dress up as their animal alter egos.”
“A whole new world opens up to me,” I told him.
“I could tell you some things that would make your nose bleed,” Simon said.
“Provided,” I told him, “it’s only my nose.”
“You could be a butterfly,” Simon suggested. “You go to a party and people might put nectar on you. It’s basically weird, dress-up bestiality without the animals… Anyway, so I thought Sex sells in Edinburgh and I want to do a commercially popular show.”
“Perhaps,” I suggested, “a furry Hilary Clinton.”
“Oh God!” said Simon. “People put her face on porn. There’s a lot of that on there.”
“Where?” I asked.
“On the internet.”
“Is The Best Sex of Our Lives a musical?” I asked.
“No. It’s vignettes.”
“A one man show?”
“No. Three actors.”
“No. They dress up as animals; they don’t fuck animals.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” I asked.
“Sorry, John,” said Simon.