INTERVIEW | MATTHEW GENT TALKS JOCK NIGHT
Tw/Cw - Strong language.
After a successful run of an hour-long version of the play in 2019, Jock Night written by Adam Zane is back for this two-act version produced in association with Seven Dials Playhouse explores the vibrant, world-famous Gay Village in Manchester, and highlights thought-provoking issues in the LGBTQ+ community through the lens of comedy and compassion.
I got to speak to one of the cast member of the show Matthew Gent to find out more about his character.
What is Jock Night about?
Jock Night is about a group of gay friends and their relationships as they navigate the sex and drug fuelled world of chillouts on the Manchester gay scene.
What are the themes of the show and what is the message you want the
audience to take away?
The show touches on some really big themes of addiction, isolation and depression but also the more positive themes of love, chosen family and forging our own queer relationships.
I suppose I want the audience to leave recognising themselves in us (it’s likely to be a heavily gay cis male audience). Some of it is really hard to look at but it’s also really hopeful and non-judgemental. I’d hate people to leave it feeling like we were making a judgement or taking a moral stance, but I would love them to look at us and assess if the choices they make in their own lives are working for them, just as the characters in the play do.
Tell me more about your character? And what do you like the most about them?
I play Russell who is a 26 year old gym boy. If he’s honest with himself he’s really into his friend Kam but lacks the emotional articulation to express that to him. He’s not the sharpest but he has a big heart and underneath his attempt at bravado he’s really sensitive. While he’s always up for a good time there are a couple of moments when he really opens up to Ben and we see that he’s been shaped by trauma around his sensitivity. What I love most about him is his emotional journey through the play. I recognise the way he puts a brave face on and conceals anything he sees as weakness as a coping strategy for lots of gay men. But most of all, I love his devotion to Kam- the fact it’s largely unreciprocated breaks my heart.
What was the reaction like when you first read the script?
When I first read the script I was struck by how much of it I recognise from my own experience. It feels true and not contrived. I also loved how fast paced and funny it is. It reminds me of the quick fire banter I have with my gay mates. I think a lot of gay plays follow certain tropes and I was conscious that this one manages to put the themes across in a fairly objective way. It’s not scaring gay men into thinking their lives will be doomed but instead, while showing some of the pitfalls of Chillout culture, it manages to show that happiness is achievable on our own terms and available to us all.
How do you think the audience will react when seeing the show?
After our first preview I suddenly realised a play that opens with 3 guys having sex is potentially shocking to an audience! But once they gaged the tone of the piece I think they came on-side.
I hope they’ll laugh! It’s a comedy drama and most of it is delightfully quick and funny. But I also hope they fall in love with the characters so when things get difficult they come with us on our emotional journeys.
How have rehearsals been? What has been difficult and easy when
Rehearsals were so fast paced! We blocked the show in a week but just marked the intimacy. Then the following week when we knew each other better we choreographed the intimacy. Functionally, that was the most challenging part- finding a way to act out some really intense sex within the parameters of consent and respect. I think what we’ve created is great. It’s sexy and passionate but planned so there are no surprises between us. I found the cast really easy to work with- everyone brings a lot of creativity to the table and offers lots of thoughtful choices when playing the scenes. It’s been a lot of fun.
What does the show mean to you?
The show really took me by surprise. I read it and knew that I had to be part of telling this story. It’s inspired by MJ Palmer’s club night “Jock” which I’d Gogo danced at in London. For me, that felt like too much of a coincidence - I knew the universe was sending this play my way. But deeper than that, I became sober a number of years ago after an intense few years of partying much like our characters, so there are things in the play that I find really moving and really devastating. When I was auditioning I asked to be seen for Simon as I thought his journey was more similar to my own. But being cast as Russ touched a part of myself that I’d not even thought about. The void he has inside that he tries to fill with the gym, with Kam, with partying and then with moving cities speaks to the void of gay shame that so many men find impossible to articulate. That intangible pain that he feels really stuck with me as an actor and a gay man so being in a play that addresses this is hugely significant for me.
What's the show's target audience?
The show’s target audience is gay men. And maybe Corrie fans. It’s unapologetically gay and really contemporary. However Adam Zane (the writer) was really careful not to alienate anyone who’s not so familiar with the subject matter. He skilfully educates the audience without giving them any on the nose lessons and surrounds it with so much humour you don’t feel you’re being schooled. I’m a big believer that not everything has to be for everyone, and while I think the play is accessible to audiences outside the LGBTQ+ community, it’s exploring a very specific, very new phenomenon within gay culture.
Favourite part of the show?
There is a scene we lovingly refer to as “the skit” which involves Russ getting stuck in a Cock Ring which is a lot of fun to play. But my favourite part is Russell’s moment in the final scene where he confronts Ben. I’ve been a performer in musicals for 15 years but this is my first straight play so getting an opportunity to really use some acting muscles I didn’t know I had has been a real gift.
Describe the show in one sentence.
Put simply, Jocks, Cocks and Barbra Knox!
Adam Zane, Artistic Director of Hive North says, Bringing together this incredible mix of talent for Jock Night has been a phenomenal journey. David's depth, combined with the sheer prowess of actors like Sam, Levi, George, and Matthew, promises to elevate the Jock Night narrative to new heights. Each of these actors not only brings their craft but also an innate understanding of the complexities we're portraying. I know that this ensemble will tell our story with
authenticity, humour, and heart.
See Below for Important show INFO.
IMPORTANT SHOW INFO
Monday 9th October – Saturday 4th November 2023
Seven Dials Playhouse
Approx 2 hours incl. interval
Trigger warnings: 18+ Strong language, drug use, sexual scenes.