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The Cast of Gypsy Queen


Interview

The Social Bitches dine with actors Rob Ward & Ryan Clayton at Otro, one of Edinburgh’s best Restaurants.

Image of The Cast of Gypsy Queen

 

Gypsy Queen is a five-star piece of theatre telling the unconventional love story of two boxers on a collision course with their roots, identity, and each other.

Their compelling journey plays with our conceptions of what it means to be a man, let alone a gay one. It also boasts nudity, and a rather memorable sex scene. All of which give this a production a gritty and realistic feel.

The men to thank are Rob Ward and Ryan Clayton, two brilliant actors who not only play the leads, but all of the supporting roles as well. Even more impressive, Rob’s also the playwright.

For our money, Gypsy Queen is the very definition of great theatre, so we felt these boys deserved the very definition of fine dining. The obvious choice: the wonderful Otro in Edinburgh’s West End.

    

 

ENTREE

As is the tradition of these interviews, and indeed the Social Bitches’ ever-present drinking problem, we began our meal with a round of espresso martinis.

Mixed to absolute perfection, Ryan and Rob soon abandoned the low-carb diet that’s enabled them to look so ripped in their roles as “Gorgeous” George O’Connell and Dane “The Pain” Samson.

‘Thank heavens,’ we exclaimed. ‘Waiter, bring lots of wine!’ Though eventually we also got to thinking about the food.

    

From previous experience we know the Chicken Parfait with toasted sourdough & onion marmalade is fabulous. Which is why Isaac took great delight in ordering it again. FYI it’s still fabulous, and creamy.

I was similarly wowed by the Confit of chicken & sunblushed tomato terrine with a parsley and caper salsa, which boasts both presentation and a combination of flavours that’s beyond delicious.

The boys meanwhile leapt at the chance to try the Shetland mussels with coconut milk, chilli, lemongrass & coriander. Their instant review: wow, these are AMAZING!

Social Bitches:
Describe yourselves, like you might for a dating app?

Rob:
Oh my god this is so hard!

Social Bitches:
Is that what you’d say??

Rob:
Definitely not!

Ryan:
I’d say I’m a passionate person, a little fiery maybe, but I’ll always stand up for people. And I’ve got fucking great hair!

Social Bitches:
Agreed!

Rob:
I’m a big one for fighting injustice, so if I’m your friend I’ve definitely got your back. And if he’s got great hair, well I’ve got a great smile.

Social Bitches:
Also agreed!

   

While Rob and Ryan have real chemistry on stage, and are clearly the best of friends, their relationship actually got off to a rocky start. [Yes, boxing pun intended.] The reason being, they previously auditioned for the same role. Rob missed out, but Ryan got the part.

Rob:
When I was casting Gypsy Queen, a friend suggested Ryan, and I was like ‘that little bastard, yeah right! Hasn’t he had enough work?!?’

Ryan:
Despite a little “bad feeling” we met, and bonded over our mutual love of football. Fortunately, we’re both supporters of the blue half of our city’s teams.

Rob:
So after a drink and a chat …

Ryan:
At the National Football Museum!

Rob:
… I asked him to come and audition. He did, and he was great.

Social Bitches:
Rob, we know your job description reads “actor”, BUT how is playing a gay man, especially given the sexual aspects of the play?

Ryan:
Rob and the director, Adam Zane, were really supportive. They were like ‘how do you feel about kissing a bloke?’ Now I come from a working class background, very sports-orientated, very masculine …

Social Bitches:
Very butch?

Ryan:
No, definitely not butch. My Dad makes many a joke about my metrosexuality. But yeah, it was difficult, though I just thought how can I respect myself as an actor, if I can’t go to that level?

Social Bitches:
Were you worried it should be a gay actor playing the role?

Ryan:
Definitely. But there’s a lot of straight actors who would turn this role down, so I think I’m here as an advocate. In other words, before I didn’t feel like I was part of the fight, now I do.

Social Bitches:
The play began as a short piece protesting Russia’s anti-gay stance, how did it become Gypsy Queen?

Rob:
I always wanted to extend it, but couldn’t find an angle. But then … heavyweight champion Tyson Fury made some outrageously homophobic statements, and did that classic thing of saying “it’s in the bible.” Coward!! It made me angry, but then I thought why is Tyson Fury so fucking obsessed with gay people? And then suddenly I had my angle …

 

MAIN COURSE

Ironically, Fury’s words have inspired the love story of two boxers, giving Rob the chance to explore a topic he’s deeply passionate about: LGBT visibility in the world of sports.

Skilfully he packs a lot of story into just seventy minutes. He’s also wonderfully adept at using comedy to underpin the drama, giving his play all the more punch.

   

Meanwhile the level of skill taking place in Otro’s kitchen also deserves high praise. Rob and Ryan enjoyed every last bite of the Ribeye 8oz steaks with hand-cut chips. Aged for a minimum of 35 days and chargrilled, they are indeed a thing of beauty.

As for us Social Bitches, well on our last visit we discovered the Slow cooked Beef cheeks with parsley mash, curly kale and bourguignon sauce. Now this is a dish that’s mind-blowing. So good, we were powerless to order anything else.

As previously stated, no matter what has gone in your life, from clinical depression to perhaps a job in banking, beef cheeks will make everything better. Utterly delicious!

    

Social Bitches:
What’s been the reaction to Gypsy Queen?

Ryan:
It’s been received really brilliantly. The poster certainly draws in a gay community.

Rob:
(Laughs) You’ve got to get bums on seats!

Ryan:
But we also want to reach people who don’t understand what life is like for the gay community. Not your outright homophobes, and those people who are just ‘I don’t get it.’

Rob:
What I tried to do was make it accessible. A lot of working class people think the theatre’s too flowery, too self-indulgent, so it’s not for them. But seriously, theatre should be for everyone.

Ryan:
It’s fantastic when you see someone in the audience you wouldn’t expect. We were performing the play in Oldham, a very working class community, and there was this bloke with a high-vis on. I think he gave us a standing ovation. It’s incredible that in seventy minutes, you can introduce people to something that changes their mindset.

 

DESSERT

Having so happily dined at Otro on several occasions, we know it’s impossible to make a bad choice from the dessert menu. In particular the Scottish strawberries with strawberry parfait and pistachio mousse is the stuff of legend. It looks like art, it tastes even better.

But curiously, all four of us were drawn to the very same dish: the Matcha & chocolate mousse cake with cherries & pistachio ice cream.

Perhaps the mention of matcha tapped into our love of healthy living? Hmmm … extremely doubtful.

Whatever the case, this dessert was a triumph. But can we just say … who knew that matcha, that most challenging of health supplements, could in any way be connected with an enjoyable experience?? Genius!

   

Social Bitches:
Tabloid question … how is it taking off your clothes in front of a room full of strangers?

Rob:
I wrote it, so I can’t complain. When I go on stage, I just think it’s right for the character. But standing in front of Ryan can be difficult. I’m like this little wiry fucker, and he’s an Adonis.

Ryan:
(laughs) It’s fine for me, mind you, I’m not taking my pants off.

Social Bitches:
Which brings us to our next question, how is it for your Rob … well … getting your knob out?

Rob:
Bizarrely, I was more conscious of taking my top off than my trousers. Does that sound crazy?

Social Bitches:
Given the amount we eat, no, not at all …

Rob:
It happened in another play I was doing, accidentally. I was like, oh, I’m naked on this stage, but it feels okay.

Ryan:
I might give it a go one night. (laughs) So I’ll let you know when that is.

Social Bitches:
Let us just grab our diary … more wine?

All kidding aside, Gypsy Queen was our very first show at this year’s Fringe, making us instantly excited about the month ahead. With dialogue, performance and a message that’s truly inspirational this is a play that deserves every success.

 

THE LAST WORD

Dining at Otro is an experience we passionately recommend. The food, the atmosphere, and the staff are sheer perfection. The Pig’s Cheeks in particular will change your life forever!

Though in this instance, we’re giving the final word to the cast of Gypsy Queen, the very talented Mr Rob Ward and Mr Ryan Clayton.

    

Rob:
Loved it! It’s one of best all dining experiences I’ve had. The food is phenomenal, and the company was marvellous!

The Social Bitches blush ever so slightly, but agree that like Otro itself they’re a must-have-experience.

Ryan:
I’ll leave the numbers to do the talking, ten out of ten!

 

Otro Restaurant

22 Coates Crescent
EH2 7AF
0131 556 0004
http://otrorestaurant.co.uk

 

After Edinburgh Fringe, Gypsy Queen heads to:

Kings Head Theatre, London August 30 – September 23
Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester – September 25 – 30