Writer Ali Taylor talks about his inspiration for Goth Weekend
I’ve always been hooked on the supernatural. When I was a kid every book I read had to have a vampire or werewolf in it. And it was the same with films. Me and my sister had a video shop at the end of our road and even though we were only about 11 and could barely see over the top of the counter, the man in AJ Video would lend us any 18 rated horror we took off the shelves. When making our choice, blood was very important to us, as were fangs, claws and the promise of loads and loads of gore. An American Werewolf in London became an early favourite and we watched it on repeat, fast-forwarding through the boring set-up and sexy bits, and onto the scenes of bloody carnage. The best bit – and the bit we’d rewind to watch at least 5 times before moving on – was the transformation, when gauche American student David Kessler turns into a werewolf for the first time, sprouting thick hair on his cracking back, watching his hand stretch into a clawed paw. Yeah yeah, you know it, don’t you? Everyone knows it because it’s brilliant!
When I think about it, what werewolves, vampires, zombies and Jekyll and Hyde all have in common in transformation. Each involves a seemingly civil person transformed into a brutal, bestial, blood hungry monster. Again, brilliant.
And it might be just me but I think humans are fascinated by transformation. If horror films show us our fears, that underneath the skin lurks amorality. And maybe that’s why we love superhero films because they show ordinary Joes transforming into the very best of humanity.
Whitby Goth Weekend is all about transformation. And it was seeing photos of everyday people transformed by the most resplendent gothic dresses, suits and hat that grabbed my attention when I went to an exhibition on the gothic at the British Library in 2014. The fact that these people were dressed so extravagantly in a picturesque seaside town in Yorkshire while eating ice creams and chips screamed out for a play.
Why? Because there’s something so British about this. About us needing masks and costumes to express ourselves (while still being able to enjoy an ice cream).
When I went to Whitby Goth Weekend, I met lots of IT managers and town planners who had to keep their Goth toned down all year. Yes, they might wear a black shirt to the office. But at Goth Weekend, they could go to town and express their true selves. And those true selves, I found, were generally gentle, thoughtful, introverted and sarcastic.
So if Dracula looks civil but is actually terrifying. Goths at Whitby look terrifying but are deeply civil.
Whitby Goth Weekend is so much more than costumes. It’s principally about Goth music, catching up with mates and having a place that, for a weekend, is entirely for everyone who is different and doesn’t fit it.
My play is all about people who don’t fit in. Yes, we’ve got Goth singer Belinda and her teenage son, Bram, who don’t fit in to ‘square’ culture. But we’ve also got plumber Ken, a working class bloke, who finds himself at sea in his middle class life now that his wife has passed away and who is looking for a new start. And his teenage daughter Anna, who finds herself outside the new family unit once Belinda moves in.
These misfits all go through their own transformations, questioning who they are and what they want from life. The questions they raise go the heart of their identities. How do they define themselves? Is it by our families, class, heritage, gender or culture? Is that enough? Should there be something else?
In rehearsals so far, director Paul Robinson has been encouraging the incredibly talented actors to pick apart each character’s journey, finding nuances and layers and plotting out their changes. At the end of the play, each character has changed in some way, with some changing almost entirely.
I’m really excited about showing this play to audiences at the fantastic Live Theatre. We’ve got, what I hope is, a funny moving story, with great Goth tunes and some magnificent costumes.
We haven’t had the budget for murder and carnage, so I’ll have to save the blood and gore for the next play.
Writer of Goth Weekend
Goth Weekend is at Live Theatre from Wednesday 11 – Saturday 28 October 2017