The drama of dating disasters
What was the inspiration for your Gay Dating Disasters show?
After breaking up with my ex of 13 years, I started dating again and it felt like a new world. When I was last single - in 2002 - there were no apps, speed-dating was largely unheard of, and getting dumped by text message wasn’t even a thing. Things had changed, and I really struggled with it. I wasn’t sure if my experiences were unique, or if other people were having as hard a time as I was.
Is the show a form of personal therapy for you - working through your dating ups and downs to get some perspective on them?
The show was certainly cathartic to write. Some of my most awkward and unpleasant dates and hookups became my favourite songs and balls in the show - the show is part musical comedy, part bingo, with 75 balls representing 75 dating anecdotes.
In the end, I did gain perspective because the audience seem to recognise the kinds of men or at least the kinds of behaviours that I describe. I realised how universal much of it is, and it wasn’t just me.
Has doing the show made dating more interesting for you - do you approach each date with an eye for their comic potential?
Early on I considered - and quickly rejected - the idea of using real people or real dating profiles in the show. It simply wouldn’t be fair - these people aren’t there to defend themselves, and they’re entitled to privacy. What I did instead was create composite characters inspired by real experiences - they’re characters who you’ll recognise instantly, but they are inspired by more than one person.
For example, my masc4masc song is about a man claiming to be masculine, but not living up to the false claims that even he is making about what it means to be ‘masc’. The song isn’t based on any one guy, but you’ll recognise the kind of guy I’m talking about when you hear it.
Some of the anecdotes are painfully personal, some are actually things that happened to my friends. They’re often more than a little exaggerated for comic effect. The song Accidentally Unfaithful is a rather ridiculous collection of many, many excuses I’ve heard for broken promises, from many people.
Cabaret performers are like magpies - we steal observations, reassemble them, and then tell a story. There’s a lot of creative licence involved, but the so-called ‘cabaret lie’ can reveal an important truth.
Are guys more likely or less likely to want to date you knowing that they could be making an appearance in the show?
I won’t identify anyone in the show, but I imagine it will make some guys nervous if they think they might end up as a bingo ball, or a song. I think there’s enough material already, so any future dates are safe. Some of my exes didn’t believe me when I told them they weren’t referenced in the material, and have actually turned up in the audience! It was nice to see some of them again.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Gay Dating Disasters?
Each show is different and depends on what the audience contribute. In cabaret we don’t have a ‘fourth wall’ - the imaginary wall separating characters from the audience in a play, which stops them from joining in the dialogue. People less familiar with cabaret have told me they aren’t sure exactly what they’ve just experienced, but it reminds them of a pantomime. That’s a huge compliment because it means I’ve broken down the barrier between the performer and the audience - pantomime also has no fourth wall.
I hope we can laugh at ourselves and think twice about how we interact when dating. Is it really okay to say that you’re looking only for an intellectual connection, but then insist on dick pics - for a coffee date? Is it respectful to date someone for three months, ghost them with no explanation, then reappear months later with a joyful - ’Hey!’
Ultimately I hope people feel less alone, even if they’re single. The show emphasises things which I think are more important than having a boyfriend - friends, family, and a determination to enjoy life. That’s ultimately what I learned. Invest in your friends!