INTERVIEW: MATT AYLEIGH TALKS ANIMAL
[TW & CW // Mention of Sexual assault].
From the writer of Ghosted: Another F***ing Christmas Carol, The Other Palace Theatre; Missing Alice, BBC4 - Jon Bradfield and developed by disability activist and equality trainer Josh Hepple, both presents a brand new play called ANIMAL which explores how disability, sexuality and lust coexist for people who require round the clock assistance.
The show stars Christopher John-Slater (All of Us, National Theatre; The Dumping Ground, CBBC) who plays David (the show's protagonist), ANIMAL looks at how one man tries to keep it casual whilst relying on completely non-casual care. Can David juggle the uncertainty of romance, the crudeness of sexting and navigating Grindr, all whilst relying on assistance? Or in the end, maybe prejudice is the biggest disability of all?
I got the chance to interview one of the cast members Matt Ayleigh who plays Derek/Nuno to find out more about the show, what the rehearsals were like and how the production is unique.
What is ANIMAL about?
ANIMAL follows the story of David, a young homosexual man with Cerebral Palsy,
navigating the confusing world of online dating, Grindr and hook up culture, whilst being supported, challenged and inhibited by the closest people around him.
What do you think makes ANIMAL such a unique production?
The characters have such strong and clear relationships. It's a messy exploration of a world that each of them demonstrates ignorance to, whether that's dating, sexuality or David's impairment, but they all have love for each other and help educate in humourous and (at times) brutally honest ways, but they never abandon each other.
What have rehearsals been like so far?
Really fun, challenging and fascinating. We are all exploring boundaries that are new for all of us, I think. Bronagh (the director) is amazing at letting us try different avenues before landing on interpretations that make sense to all of us.
What have you learned in the rehearsal process that you didn’t know
The difference between social and medical models of disability, and the importance of understanding the social model. And how important Percy Pigs are for energy levels!
What’s your favorite thing about the show?
ME! No, the humour is brilliant, and incorporation of technology and apps is going to be really exciting.
In what ways are you similar to your character, and in what ways are you different?
I have been an assistant to relatives with Cerebral Palsy, so it's been a journey re-exploring the ebb and flow of relationships, and I'm an actor! So I'm having fun turning up certain dials through Derek.
What do you want audiences to take away from ANIMAL?
If people leave a little more open to talking about vulnerabilities and things that confuse them in sexual and romantic relationships, then that wouldn't be a bad thing!
How would you describe the show in one sentence?
It's about this handsome, multitalented, faultlessly kind carer called Derek…
Accessibility is at the heart of ANIMAL – everyone is welcome at any performance. The performance will be an environment where people can freely express themselves and experience the show according to their needs.
Additional wheelchair spaces will be available at each performance and specific relaxed or semi-relaxed performances will be available at all venues along with advance notice of any sensory triggers. There will also be audio-described, captioned and touch tour performances.
The cast are completed by Joshua Liburd (Dreamgirls, Savoy Theatre; The Scottsboro Boys, Young Vic), Amy Loughton (Romeo & Juliet, Southwark Playhouse; A View from the Bridge, Theatre by the Lake), Matt Ayleigh (The Importance of Being Earnest, Theatre Clwyd; Love for Love, Bristol Old Vic), Harry Singh (But I’m a Cheerleader!, Turbine Theatre) and William Oxborrow (Saving Jason, Park Theatre; Guys & Dolls, Savoy Theatre).
Age requirement is 16+, [CW // scenes of a sexual nature, & one scene of sexual assault]
ANIMAL will open at the Hope Mill Theatre on 9th March – 2nd April 2023, then will tour to the Tobacco Factory Theatre and Park Theatre Clifton Terrace.