5 minutes with Jay Taylor: 'I walk out of shows at the interval with my head in my hands'

The actor talks to us about what makes him leave the theatre early, and why ”46 Beacon” ‘isn’t a gay play’

Jay Taylor
Jay Taylor
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

When I was younger I applied for loads of schools and only got into RADA, which was no bad thing. My first role was at the Globe in Lucy Bailey's Titus Andronicus. One of the spear-carriers dropped out because he had a problem with his ears and I filled in. It was a tiny virtually non-speaking part and I had about two hours rehearsal time. It was terrifying, but I got through it.

I want to make work that represents the society we see around us. Everybody has the right to see their story represented on stage. But I want to make people laugh, too. I go to the theatre and sit through stuff that’s just dull and I walk out at the interval with my head in my hands thinking "that was torture". Why are we subsidising these theatres to make this turgid, boring work when there are so any brilliant dynamic theatre makers out there itching to get stuff made?

I had all that in mind when I worked on my own play last year, The Acedian Pirates. It didn’t quite have the impact I wanted it to for various reasons. I don’t think it was ready. It didn’t make people laugh in the way I wanted it to. It was a big learning curve, and I’m working on something new. The second play is pretty much there, I’m hoping for a production at some point early next year.

46 Beacon rehearsals
46 Beacon rehearsals
© Oli Sones

46 Beacon is about what it’s like to be gay in 1970 and it represents how far we’ve come since then. It’s about two men who meet in a theatre, and one of them is twice the age of the other. They share this formative experience and it leaves them both irrevocably changed.

It’s a story about two gay men, but it’s not just a 'gay play'. It’s about identity and being 16, not knowing who you are or what you’re doing, and meeting someone who might have the answers for you. It’s also 90 minutes straight through which is my idea of a good night at the theatre.

I’m a bit of a f**ker when it comes to directors, and there’s only a few whose work I would seek out. But our director, Alexander Lass, is one of them. He’s been a revelation to me. He’s detailed without being pernickety, and he understands how to work with actors. This is his proper debut, it’s remarkable. I think he’s going to go places.

46 Beacon runs at Trafalgar Studios from 10 to 29 April, with previews from 5 April.