Clearing 2021

Author: Rory Thomas-Howes (BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre, 2019)

I started writing my debut play A Partnership as part of my course at East 15 Acting School. Focused on two gay men coming home from a tumultuous night out, A Partnership explores the peaks and troughs of their five-year relationship over the course of an hour – in real time. Cutting to the heart of internalised homophobia and what ‘normality’ is supposed to mean in modern queer relationships, the piece was eventually selected to be part of our third year Debut Festival, performed and directed by other members of the BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre course. 

After its first showing, I realised there was further life in the show. I formed a theatre company with two close friends, Paper Mug Theatre, and together we were able to score a slot at one of Edinburgh Fringe’s top venues, The Gilded Balloon. Not only were we taking A Partnership, but we’d also succeeded in getting a slot for another play, I Lost My Virginity to Chopin’s Nocturne in B Minor. The only problem now was paying for it. In total, it looked like it was going to cost around £8,000, and that was before we’d even arrived at the venues. 

Through savings, credit cards and harrowed pleas we were able to source £2,000 each to finance the shows, but this still left us at a deficit. Thankfully, through the University of Essex’s generous Click crowdfunding program, we were able to market the show, and create content and rewards for anyone who would be willing to donate. By the end of the fundraising period, we’d secured over £2,000 from generous donors. Without it, we simply would not have been able to go to Edinburgh Fringe and missed out on a career-changing opportunity. 

The experience once we arrived in Edinburgh was life changing. A Partnership scored a number of four- and five-star reviews, was nominated for a several awards and, together with I Lost My Virginity, won Theatre Weekly’s Best Fringe Debut award. In our final week, we were approached by the producer of Theatre503, who offered us a week-long run at their theatre. This scored us an Off West End commendation, more stellar reviews and an opportunity to take the show to audiences in London.

Before the pandemic hit, we were on our way to doing a small-scale UK tour, as well as a slot at the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. Unfortunately, coronavirus undid all those plans – instead, we applied for an Arts Council England grant to develop the play further in a research and development phase, with a new director and performers, successfully securing nearly £8,000 in funding. With this money, we’ll pay all our creatives, breathe new life into the play and prepare it for an even brighter future.

While waiting for the restrictions to ease, I’ve been developing a number of new projects. Paper Mug Theatre, has been working on a comedy-horror film/theatre piece called Steve and Tobias vs Death which we’re currently shopping to venues, and I’ve been writing a new play looking at the murky world of gay conversion therapy in the UK.

As an LGBTQ+ writer focused on how modern queer relationships function, the support Click gave me was invaluable and I’d recommend anyone to take the opportunity to fundraise through them.