Monologues charting the UK gay experience. Actors can feel typecast. But it's 1987, and with AIDS hitting the headlines a new part looks like a game-changer for Phil.
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I'm getting quite good at dying.
Mostly, that's me in a bed, in a hospital,
looking pasty and terrified and tetchy.
They expect you to be tetchy.
Like, I had PCP for a single on Channel 4.
Pneumocystis pneumonia - horrible job, take after fucking take.
The director comes to me - Dan, his name is, he said...
"We need to see more anger, yeah?"
I said, "Why?"
Well, he just looks at me like it's obvious.
"Because the Government are doing nothing, yeah?
"There's no funding,
"and these fucking iceberg films they have on telly now,
"it's fucking criminal."
I said, "I thought my character would probably be past anger
"by this stage. I'd probably be thinking much more practical things,
"like, is this going to hurt?
"Or will it be over quick?"
"What would I have done with my life if I'd lived?
"Maybe. Could I have done things differently, been more careful,
"made different choices?"
Anyway, he wanted anger, so, ooh, he got anger.
I channelled the anger I was feeling towards him and that helped.
This is a key skill.
Some actors can't draw on themselves, their experiences.
though, obviously, I'm not dead yet so I've been having to make that up.
Then after that, I did a film
where I get stabbed by a serial killer who's picking on gays,
for some unknown reason,
but, obviously, that was just a metaphor.
When the police finally catch him, even he doesn't know why he does it.
I saw that when it went out at the Curzon
and I could hear quite a few people sobbing in the audience
when I pegged it.
I got a bit tearful myself, actually.
It's just the face.
I look young and innocent, so you're immediately thinking,
"What a waste."
That's why I get the parts, I reckon.
The scene...I'm really good at
is the deathbed scene where the boyfriend shows up.
More often than not,
I'm doing well health-wise when the complications hit,
so the sudden deterioration's a surprise for both of us.
He's sometimes older - not always - cute, obviously,
but there is an awkwardness between us.
It's not actually said, but...
..you get the vague sense that he's been messing about
in saunas and toilets
and not taking precautions,
while I, of course, have been faithful as a puppy,
so then there's the injustice of it, too.
I have a bit of a barney with him, but I'm generally forgiving.
I just go a bit arch, you know,
got me sparky sense of humour right till the end.
I had lunch with my agent, and she's dead pleased I'm working -
and so am I, but...
..it's getting a bit samey.
I don't feel like I'm moving forward, you know?
She reckons I should be grateful.
"You're really grabbing at the heartstrings, Phil,
"really making an impact."
I just worry they're going to get sick of the sight of me.
"Him again - dying, again."
She wasn't having it.
"The characters you get are pivotal, Phil, pivotal.
"Everything around you changes once you're..."
"Gone, yeah?" I said,
"It's awfully nice that my friends get really, really upset
"when I'm dead,
"and then kind of reassess their priorities and stuff.
"I just wish I made it past page 18."
She said, "You get the full fee."
I said, "That's not the point."
Still, it's work.
She said there might be a role playing a bat thing on Doctor Who.
"Do they still make Doctor Who?" I said.
Plus a bit-part in an indie film,
English mourner at a funeral in New York.
"Can you do grieving?"
I said, "Probably."
The truth is, I don't have much to draw on there.
I've been lucky.
I know what it looks like, though.
I've seen it.
I've seen it often enough, too often.
Then out of the blue, she asks me...
..if I get tested.
I said, "What?"
It's none of her business.
as it happens.
I couldn't face it. I'd sooner not know.
I'm just not strong enough.
And it is possible to not get it, if you're careful -
and by careful, I don't mean bloody celibate or monogamous.
I fucking love sex, me.
Bum sex mainly, but there is an underrated beauty
to blowing a total stranger in a toilet cubicle
that's hard to convey,
and if you try to convey it, it gets boring or icky, quite quickly, so...
No squatting on your haunches - knees must hit the floor,
and eye contact throughout.
I could be blowing someone now if it weren't for this bloody death scene.
Agent's promised she'll get me a role
that doesn't involve losing half a stone
and whiting the face up, so fingers crossed.
I quite like doing coming-out scenes,
though even there, death crops up pretty quickly.
I did a play where I was Liverpudlian,
so it was dead bitter, but really funny, like corrosively funny.
The mother's mopping the floor, and I drop the bombshell.
We have a row. I throw in...
LIVERPOOL ACCENT: "What do you want me to do,
"get married and be unhappy?"
She comes back with, "Why not?
"That's what I bloody did!"
The mother gets the best lines.
The gay boy's the feed.
Then, of course, she realises I'm not done with the bombshells,
and the full horror of her situation dawns on her - her little Billy,
gay and dead, in quick succession.
"More than a poor girl's heart can take."
The upshot is, she loses her faith.
That was at the Finborough,
so while she's rowing with the bishop at the funeral,
I slip out early and get down the Coleherne.
There's a bloke goes there some nights.
The legs. Dancer's legs, and, sorry, I actually am a size queen.
I make no apologies.
Simon fits the bill.
The best fuck ever.
I've kind of got a top top-ten in my head,
and for a long time, it was a guy I met in Portsmouth at number one,
but Simon has knocked him off the top top spot.
Dead fit, proper man.
Nice enough bloke, as well, sense of humour.
I don't normally talk to blokes down the Coleherne
cos it risks breaking the spell,
but it hasn't broken Simon's spell.
Agent called yesterday, got me an audition for a TV new soap.
Gay character - called Clive, who isn't ill,
and according to the man at the Beeb, never gets it,
it's actually in the contract.
Just has a life.
Has the same kind of plotlines as the other characters,
but from a gay perspective.
So, well, that'd be progress.
If I got it. He's also not camp, which is fairly important -
not that I can't do camp, but the days of Mr Humphries are over.
Lads at school used to take the piss when that programme was on,
not of me - I'm not naturally camp.
I can go quite blokey, in fact.
I should get put up for more straight roles, really.
I did play angry shopper in Albion Market,
but it wasn't established whether he was gay or straight,
so it doesn't count.
Nor does the bat thing on Doctor Who.
Well, not really.
No, Clive isn't camp, but he's not blokey either.
He's, um, sensitive, takes life seriously,
and may appear guarded when we first meet him,
but underneath, he's warm, emotional,
and soon becomes a popular member of the local community.
LAUGHS: I can play Clive...
..standing on me head.
Ah, so now it's my fault, is it?
Oh. So now it's MY fault.
So now it's my fault, is it?
Clive is the most boring man
ever presented on a TV screen - seriously.
Fretful fucking creep.
Not camp, no. No sense of humour whatsoever.
I've got this beige boyfriend, like Clive Mark 2.
Only taller with a pierced ear.
And the fucking hugging we get up to - oh, scandalous.
I can't get ill, obviously, of anything.
The fucker isn't even allowed to cough.
Plotline at the moment where I turn out to be fiddling my tax returns
so me and the boyfriend can build a beige life together.
I had thought fiddling the tax
might lead to a prison story, which could be quite, um, meaty.
But no. Clive's not fiddling THAT MUCH.
Of course he fucking isn't.
Simon's not beige.
That's one colour that Simon really isn't.
He's so fit.
We've kind of been seeing a bit more of each other - his suggestion.
It threw me at first.
We'd just got it on in the Coleherne,
cubicle nearest the window, and...
He gets nasty, does Simon.
Full palm of the hand stuff.
And we were having a pint in the front after,
and he suddenly says,
"We could go and see a film or something."
The thought of us, hand-in-hand, buying popcorn...
But we gave it a whirl, and...
..it was nice.
He's strong. Only a few years older than me, but he's lived proper, man,
Taps into something, you know?
SIGHS: It's nice.
His legs are incredible.
I know he's more than just a pair of legs, but all the same.
I could actually play...
..in love, these days,
if the right part would only fucking come up.
Oh, so now it's my fault, is it?
There's a line in next week's episode
where the beige boyfriend
says he's thinking of moving back to Hemel Hempstead.
I have a feeling Clive's going to go with him,
so that'll be the end of that.
Yeah, good riddance to him.
I went back to the agent.
She says Clive isn't easy to love, and,
"If you are dropped from the show, darling,
"at least you're not leaving in a wooden box."
Which is true.
I just thought that I was...
Still, I'm up for a tour of Bent at the end of the month,
so it's not all doom and gloom.
I just think, if you're entering into a relationship with someone,
you should be honest from the start.
Not hide any bombshells, pull the rug from under a bloke's feet.
I was completely not expecting it,
just sitting with him on the sofa watching a film,
and he comes out with it.
"By the way, I'm positive."
Well, he must've seen panic in my eyes because he immediately says,
"We've been safe. You're not in any danger."
Which calmed me down a bit.
Still, I was shocked.
He said it was more than just HIV.
He actually had
"But I'm OK.
"I'm looking after myself.
"I get regular check-ups, do all the right things.
"Yeah, I get scared sometimes, but...
"I stand a good chance.
"And I wanted to tell you,
"because, well, it's important if we're going to...
"..get more serious."
I didn't say anything.
Well, it's a lot to take in, isn't it?
We tried to just spend the evening together,
but an hour in, he says,
"This silence isn't just you getting your head round the news, is it?"
I just looked at him.
After that, he went off into the kitchen and...
I heard him crying.
Sobbing like a baby.
So that was that.
Spell broken, well and truly.
It'd be nice if I had some work to take my mind off him, but, um...
You see, the fallow periods are part of the job.
The trick is not to see one rejection as part of a trend.
Time passes, though, doesn't it?
I won't be in the young and innocent market forever,
and then dying's not as in demand as it was,
which is ironic because there's more dying now than ever - way more -
but the circus has moved on.
Doctors say it's heading towards a peak,
and with all the drugs coming up,
more people are going to live longer and longer.
It'll be like normal lives.
Well, that may well be true but...
..I wonder where it all leaves me.
I mean, the only thing to do once the '80s are gone
would be to wipe the slate, press reset, start...
..having fun again.
And then no-one's going to want to watch the stuff I made
once it really is over.
I mean, why would they look back on all that death?
It's just depressing.
It's no way to move forward, is it?
So, no repeat fees.
My oeuvre will moulder in the archives.
I ran into him last week, Simon...
..in Tower Records.
He doesn't go down the Coleherne now.
He was there with his little BF - smiley, cute enough,
and clearly Lady Helium Heels.
Well, he'd have to be.
We talked a bit, but it was...
..a bit awkward.
I came away wondering whether he'd even told the little boyfriend.
It's none of my business.
I know what my future will be.
I'll get work - quiet, single bloke at party,
some swish loft apartment, music.
I'll be just right for the man
who can't quite get into the swing of things.
Some young blonde lad'll come over and start on me,
"Oh, smile - it might never happen."
And that'll be my cue...
..to wag my finger, to lecture, tell them what went on,
what WE went through.
They'll all listen, but it'll be uncomfortable.
They'll all kind of exchange glances, let me say my piece,
and then I'll probably storm off.
The blonde lad'll say something funny to lighten the mood.
Time was, it was me who had the funny lines.
Sparky sense of humour.
Only back then, I was dying, and they're not.
But what was I supposed to do?
He broke the spell.
If finger-wagging really is all I have to look forward to,
then I'll have a lot to work with. Have you heard?
The Department of Health's pulled its finger out -
they're going to print some information about AIDS
in the papers -
only Thatcher said no.
They should just stick some posters up on lavatory walls,
and leave it at that, because normal people can't catch it, you see.
And no-one wants to read about arse-fucking in The Sun, do they?
The Sun. "When you mess with nature you've got it coming to you, mate."
The Sun. And we've got Private Eye telling us
gay stands for "Got AIDS Yet?"
That's a good one, isn't it?
The Met police raided the Vauxhall Tavern last week.
The coppers were wearing rubber gloves
to protect them from the gay plague.
Stuff like that...
..is happening to us.
While hundreds of people die, our friends and our lovers,
stuff like that is fucking commonplace.
It feels like the world's gone cold and mad.
And I'll bet you, years from now,
if you want to get anywhere near this stuff on stage,
you'll have to do it tangentially,
use some clever trick to keep things light,
because, hey, being gay in the '80s was more than just AIDS, wasn't it?
Was that anger enough?
Actors can easily feel typecast. But it's 1987, and with AIDS hitting the headlines a promising new part looks like a game-changer for Phil.