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Clayton Littlewood On ... Creating Dirty White Boy

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Clayton Littlewood's Dirty White Boy - Tales of Soho, based on his blog and subsequent book about running the Dirty White Boy shop on Old Compton Street in Soho, opens this week at Trafalgar Studios 2 (30 April 2010, previews from 26 April).

From his shop window, Clayton sat and blogged about the real life characters that passed through his doors. Characters range from the aging ‘polari speaking’ Leslie, Sue and Maggie from the brothel upstairs, Angela the feisty transsexual, the bizarre 'Thongman' and Chico the campest queen on the street. All of them and more are brought to life in the stage show, which stars Littlewood alongside Alexis Gerred and David Benson.

Clayton Littlewood: I’ve always written things down. In diary form mainly. Usually when things have been particularly stressful. And then when we moved into the Dirty White Boy shop on Old Compton Street in Soho, it felt like it was going to be an important, but stressful moment in my life.

So I started a diary. And every night, once we’d closed, my partner (Jorge Betancourt) would go downstairs to bed and I’d pull up my little red chair by the window and I’d start writing about who’d been in the shop that day. And I started to post these diary entries up on MySpace. So there was no intention of writing a book or a play. I just wanted something to look back on when I’m lying in my seaside nursery home (wet) bed in the not too distant future.

I was interested in writing about the real Sohoites. The street people. The pimps. The rent boys. The bag ladies. The hookers. The trannies. The old queens. All those on the outside I guess.

We lived in one big room below the shop. There were no windows down there. So it was all very dark and gloomy. We had a one ring stove for a kitchen. No bath or shower. We had to go to the gym to shower. And we had constant leaks from the brothel. And punters running up and down the stairway all through the night. But you know what? Jorge’s background is interior design and he decorated the room with gorgeous pieces of art and there was something quite beautiful about that contrast. Plus, being surrounded by all this sex, art, and death (as Soho’s built on plague pits), I found it really inspiring.

When the book came out I was asked to do a few book readings and whenever I’ve been to anyone else’s, I’ve always found them a bit tedious. There’s little interaction with the audience and few people can read their own work properly. Anyway, ten years before I’d been to see a play in the West End called, Think No Evil of Us: My Life With Kenneth Williams performed by David Benson. And I never forgot that play. It was breathtaking. David is an acting genius.

So when I joined MySpace and I came across him I thought, ‘I have to be his friend!’ And now we are friends. So then I hit on the idea of livening up my book readings by asking David if he would do the voices to the characters while I narrated. And the reception was really good. Which led to the play. So it was all very organic and unplanned… which good ideas often are.

Dirty White Boy runs until 22 May 2010 at Trafalgar Studios 2

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