INTERVIEW: What’s wrong with angry? Gay play revived for Edinburgh

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For gays of a certain age, the 1998 film Get Real holds fond memories.

The story of a geeky teenage outcast, who discovers while out cottaging that the hottest boy in school is also batting for our team, just felt very, well, real.

The film was based on a play, What’s Wrong With Angry, by Patrick Wilde, and when spoke to him last week about its revival, we were shocked when he said it is now a period piece.

In a way he is right.

In 1993, when What’s Wrong With Angry was first staged, the age of consent was 21, Section 28 effectively stopped homosexuality being discussed in schools and the word metrosexual was yet to be invented.

“The cast are a bunch of 18 and 19-year-old lads,” explains Wilde, a stylish 50-year-old in designer frames and de rigueur understated black jacket.

“They did not know the history. People did not know about Stonewall.

“I thought that was astonishing, that gay people did not know their own history.”

What’s Wrong With Angry, directed by Wilde, will be performed at the Edinburgh Festival from 30 July to 26 August. The cast are actually performing two plays.

“The other is called Boys Of The Empire by Glenn Chandler, who created Taggart and is also gay,” explains Wilde.

“We’re doing both each day.

“It’s the same cast in both plays.

“People were saying to me ‘why do we need this, it’s all in the past?’

“I think that’s the point, we need it in a ‘lest we forget’ way, to remember what things were like.

“My play is now a period piece, I can actually do it as a period piece as it’s 1992.”

The issues, from homophobia in schools to the reluctance of “straight acting” gay men to come out, all resonate as strongly today as they did sixteen years ago.

“We had an actor come into audition. There was a boy murdered at his school two years ago for being gay. Bullying is still an issue.

“I’ve got this theory that it is easier to be gay than it ever was in certain parts of the country, but it’s no easier to come out.

“The whole process of saying those words to people, like your best friend or your parents or whatever, it’s hard.

“If you’re camp it’s harder to hide it, if that’s the right word.

“People have all sorts of reasons not come out.

“One of the issues in the play is that one’s family will assume you are straight unless you tell them or are very camp.

“If you’re black you don’t experience racism in the home but if your gay you hear homophobia.”

Getting back to the original of What’s Wrong With Angry also helps Wilde reconnect with his original vision.

He wrote the screenplay for the 1993 film version Get Real, and claims it is “absolutely wonderful,” but it is obvious he is enjoying directing this revival.

“The character of Steven is very different in the play than the character in the film.

“Something about making the film was to make it more user-friendly and appeal to more people.”

Wilde has had a wide experience writing for many popular television shows, among them Casualty, Holby City, and the one he is most proud of, the first series of BBC’s iconic drama This Life.

He also penned large sections of This Life for teens, the wildly popular As If for Channel 4.

“I think it was a phenomenal series,” he explains.

“I wrote the episodes for Alex, who was the gay character.

“With This Life we had a team of writers and people come up with story lines and you have input, but I never felt like it was my baby.”

He jokes that on Casualty “you have to come up with illness of the week.”

“I put on Facebook ‘Patrick has written his gayest episode of Casualty ever.’

“There were drag queens and two gay boxers and one was in love with the other.

“I think we take it for granted that there are gay characters post-Queer as Folk and Gimme Gimme Gimme on TV.

“But there was a time when we had to sneak them in.”

Wilde’s early years were full of negative gay representations, such as Mr Humphries on Are You Being Served, but he does not agree that camp on TV is in itself bad.

“Graham Norton’s very camp and I don’t think that’s a negative stereotype.

“He’s a type of gay man and I think he’s very funny, genuinely funny.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative stereotype.

“In Monarch of the Glen I managed to get two gay characters, which was a real skill because it’s these people alone in the house in the Highlands.

“The other problem with TV now is people think we’ve done it.

“Which is nonsense, because we’ve ‘done’ straight.

“I think there are still issues.

“One of the points of the play and the film is that young gay men are forced to find sex in dangerous places.

“So the law isn’t really there to help people.

“Where do these criminals go, these criminal lovers, these criminal children?

“Into darkness and danger.”

What’s Wrong With Angry is at the Chambers Street performing space from 30 July to 26 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Click here to book tickets.

INTERVIEW: What’s wrong with angry? Gay play revived for Edinburgh