Strip Search jumps between "light entertainment" - the striptease fantasy - and something much harder - the past of the main character. how far is this show a serious play about issues, or something lighter and funnier?
I think I've answered that to some extent. Don't worry, there are quite a few good jokes in the script, but it is a serious play, and quite shocking and harrowing in places. When we did previews, there was an element in the audience of gay men who came along to see a spectacularly good-looking hunk get his kit off, but by the time we got to the nitty-gritty, they were so into the story and the character that they were looking at his face, not his dick. And that's how it should be.
How do you feel about the revival of striptease as an acceptable form of entertainment, through the burlesque revival and so on?
You have to separate gay male experience from heterosexual or lesbian experience here. Stripping is dying on the gay scene. Twenty years ago there were a dozen strippers making a good living from touring a well-established pub circuit. The availability of sex and porn on the internet has changed all that. For lesbians, girl-for-girl strippers are a way of asserting sexuality which for so long was assumed not to exist. If you know dykes today, they are reveling in the power and freedom to pull - they're just as slutty as the boyz have always been! The heterosexual burlesque revival is something else again - it involves camp and glamour and is very knowing and post-modern. But again I think you have to separate young women - a lot of them drama students or ex-drama students - doing burlesque to an essentially theatrical audience, from the Eastern European girls working the Soho strip joints and the so-called "gentlemen's clubs" in a much harsher environment and driven by economic necessity.
Is there a particular aesthetic or social context to male striptease for gay audiences that is not present in heterosexual striptease?
People who strip for gay audiences as well as for hen nights tell me that gay audiences are much better behaved. The hens are merciless, and much dirtier! I think this is partly because gay strip nights are a regular weekly thing - Monday Karaoke, Tuesday Quiz, Wednesday Stripper - whereas a hen night is usually something special, a one-off, and much more an excuse for letting your hair down and letting off steam. For gay men who follow strip nights there's more of an aesthetic, plus there's the aspirational aspect: I could have a body like that, if only I could get my lardarse down to the gym. Our most appreciative audiences have been women and gay men. I think straight men find male strippers threatening, though I can assure them that they won't get ravished in the third row in this show!