The General Will and the One-off Theatre Company
Gerry remembers his involvement in radical theatre in Bradford and his part in a play called 'Men' performed by the One-off Theatre Company.
Image on Story Page is a flyer for ‘Men’ from the One-off Theatre Co. Thanks to Unfinished Histories:
TRANSCRIPTGM: I think before I moved to Bradford, I used to go over there and it was cos there was a quite a nice mixed radical scene, there was a pub...which I think might have been called The Manningham Arms, it’s not there – either it’s not there anymore or it’s, it’s changed hands and become completely different, it was very mixed lesbian and gay, at the bottom of Manningham Lane in, in lower Bradford. And I used to go over there, it was quite exciting place to go. I’m trying to remember when The General Will Theatre Companies go, there was this [pause] left-wing theatre company in Bradford called The General Will, and they – one of their members was an out gay man called Noel Greg, he’s died now which is why I feel comfortable giving his full name, and he later went on to work with Gay Sweatshop. I mean, I, I, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying his name anyway, but just – I’m – cos of the archive thing, I’m not sure – I’m, I feel like it’s OK to say all of his name. And he, he, he thought that the – it should – that, that these resources ought to be available to...lesbians and gay people, and so he, he tried, he made a bid really, basically, to take it over, and it – he succeeded, and so it became a lesbian and gay theatre company, The General Will. I think that was possibly before I moved to Bradford.
INTERVIEWER: So what -
GM: - And they put on a number of performances in Bradford and Leeds.
INTERVIEWER: So what was your role in the theatre company, were you acting?
GM: Not with that one, nothing, but in 1978, again, before I moved to Bradford, I was – I had been working at the post office and I was thinking about... visiting America and, like, having a, a year out or something and explore America and it – that didn’t happen, but [pause] but some people in Bradford who had been involved with the... with the... The General Will had, had decided to put on a play, so they formed a production company called The One-off Theatre Company who put on this, this play called... called Men, by Noel Greg and Don Milligan. I think that might have been the first sort of, scripted play that, that Noel wrote, he wrote it with this guy Don Milligan who was, not a – not in the theatre but very political. And I a role in that, and we, we toured it a bit and we ended up in London. [Pause] During Pride week, in 1978. Yes. And the guy who was the assistant stage manager, Colin, he, he and I were having a relationship and...– because, by, by 19 – the end of, by 1978, the Leeds scene, the radical scene had sort of vanished away really, to me. And I felt that I wasn’t really very happy in my, in my life and so I – and then Bradford seemed to have something going for it, so 1979 I moved to Bradford. But actually – so I think everything that I, I can say about Bradford activities actually happened before I moved there [laughs]. Like the theatre and, and stuff like that. Think actually when I moved there, there wasn’t, again there wasn’t a lot happening, I guess maybe the late ‘70s wasn’t such a good time for gay activism in Yorkshire, I don’t know, but for some reason there didn’t seem to be much happening.
INTERVIEWER: What was it like touring the play?
GM: That was a trip, I mean we didn’t get… - you know, well we, we, we were quite ambitious, and there were two, two gay characters, me and my, and, and, and the charact – the guy who played my boyfriend, Charles, from Bradford. And... and then there were, I think maybe thr – two or three or four... straight characters, all played by straight actors, I think it was all men. And my character Richard was, was like a shop steward, and completely closeted. And, and my character’s boyfriend was called Eugene, but Gene for short. And so when Richard at work talked about Gene, it was assumed that Gene was a, was a, was his, was a girlfriend or wife, cos the names sound – and anyway. [Pause] Actually this was second time that play was put on, I remember seeing it with some other people in it, probably done – put on, possibly, put on by The General Will actually. Anyway, yes, so Charles played my very camp boyfriend. There’s this, there’s a scene where, where the – one of the straight trade unionists says – is talking about – they’re – Gene is talking about gay rights and, and one of the straight trade unionists says something like ‘well all these problems will be ironed out after the revolution’ and Gene says ‘I don’t think I fancy being ironed out very, very much, thank you very much’ [laughs]. So, you know, that was the sort – that was – it was a, it was a funny hodge-podge of a play, it – the first part was too political, and – but anyway – I mean too, too wordy really, and very, like, you know, wordy and worthy really, but it was interesting to be in, it’s…