Ian Tucker-Bell brings two LGBT plays to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Name: Ian Tucker-Bell
Name of Edinburgh show: Trans Pennine & From Today Everything Changes
Venue: The Space on North Bridge (Venue 36)
Performance time: 6:20
Show length: 50 mins
Ticket price: £8
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I began in a church youth theatre group, that’s where I discovered my love of both writing and performing. From there I studied Theatre in York, focusing on writing and performance. Over the past couple of years I’ve been working with a group of like minded souls, now collectively known as The Orange Works, to bring my writing to the stage.
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
I’ve got two plays at Edinburgh this year, which scares me slightly! ‘From Today Everything Changes’ had a brief run last year, and was warmly received, so we wanted to give it a longer run out. It’s about a sixty-something widowed man who comes out and begins dating a younger man. It’s loosely based on the stories of friends of mine who grew up in an age where being gay was illegal and/or socially unacceptable, many of whom married. They then found themselves in their fifties, sixties, or older, able to finally come out. It’s a story of discovery for the main character, but ultimately it’s a really tender and warm-hearted love story.
The new play is a comedy-drama called ‘Trans Pennine’ and it’s about family disagreements, gender-identity, and caravan holidays. It tells the story of Dave who, with his adult children, travel across the Pennines to scatter the ashes of his wife in the Yorkshire Dales. Only none of them liked her. Dave’s son, Ben, is transgender and struggling to come out to his dad and find the confidence to live openly as a woman; events on their journey finally bring that into the open for all of them. Ben’s character was based upon my friend Kat, who came out to me as transgender as I was writing the script. I’d known Kat as Keith for many years, and when she told me her story I knew I wanted to weave it into this particular script, and I was thrilled when she gave me permission to do so.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
‘From Today Everything Changes’ was written a few years ago, and went through a few incarnations in drama festivals before the current version was brought to Edinburgh last year. It’s still relevant for two clear reasons. Firstly, there are many men of that generation still coming out – in fact a friend came out to us last week having seen the play and thinking it was written about him! Secondly, gay men of that age are not represented well in theatre – usually they’re about to die, or they’re uncovered as dirty old men. They are rarely allowed to simply fall in love. That’s why writing this play was so important to me, and why it’s story is still relevant in an age where being gay is no longer the taboo it was.
As for ‘Trans Pennine’ – I began working on the idea for that in the autumn of last year but it wasn’t until Kat came out to me that it suddenly made sense. It came together quite quickly after that, although I have made various revisions as I’ve learned more about the lives and experiences of trans people. I’m very aware that trans people are misrepresented and demonised in our media, and I’m also aware of the transphobia that exists in our society in 2018. I hope the play helps people understand what it is to be trans, what a brave thing it is to come out as trans, and to break down those fears and misconceptions our media seems happy to perpetrate in our society.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Pace yourselves – don’t try to do too much, allow time for cake, tea, and the amazing gin Edinburgh has on offer!
Accept you’re going to see a wide range of work, some baffling, some amazing, some awful, some sublime. Roll with it, and take risks on the unknown – it’s all part of the edfringe experience!
Perhaps most importantly, work out where the decent toilets are!
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
When I was four I got up on stage at a talent show to sing a song, completely forgot the words, so I dragged my older brother up on stage to help me and he forgot it as well.
As a grown up, I was performing a sketch I’d written to quite a large group, and my accent went all over the place. Started down Essex somewhere, went via Yorkshire and Wales and ended up in Cornwall. I try to avoid accents where I can…
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Frantic Assembly inspire me immensely, not just for their physical work, but for the way they layer and build narratives with massive emotional impact. I also love John Godber, he has such a wonderful, playful style of writing. He’s possibly had the most impact on my writing style than any other.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I’m quite into mediation before performance, to help calm and focus me. Having an insurance wee is also important; last thing you need is the urge to pee while in the middle of an important monologue…
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Really looking forward to seeing what Headlong have brought, but I’m looking forward to seeing some of the other LGBT shows that are there this year – particularly Romeo and Juliet, Gypsy Queen, and Gayface.
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Both our plays feature LGBT characters that are not always represented in theatre. They are both honest, truthful, human stories rooted in real life experiences.
‘From Today Everything Changes’ will make you smile and make you all gooey inside and then make you cry.
‘Trans Pennine’ will make you laugh out loud, and then get all choked up. (We really ought to get sponsored by Kleenex.) It also features the best joke featuring a margarine tub in a play ever. EVER.