Interview – Harry Clayton Wright
There are picture descriptions for those with a visual impairment at the end of this post.
IRIS BLOGGER: You grew up in the seaside town of Blackpool, famous for its “end of the pier” shows. Do you think this played a part in you becoming an entertainer? Did you watch much live performance as a kid?
HARRY CLAYTON WRIGHT: Blackpool has played a massive part on my path to being an artist and entertainer and I definitely think the influence is tangible in my work. Growing up in Blackpool is wild. To have all of those shows and attractions (Blackpool Tower Ballroom and Circus, Funny Girls, the Pleasure Beach) on your doorstep and that being normalised. The lineage of entertainment history in the town is incredible. What an amazing backdrop to grow up against.
IB: Though you’re drawing on that tradition, sex-positivity is a running theme in much of your work. How did you come to explore that as a theme? Is there a political or campaigning edge to it, or is it simply a celebration?
HCW: Definitely both. It’s joyous and deliberately provocative in my work. I enjoy the challenge to see if I can make something that straddles-
IB: (Splutters tea like Terry in ‘Terry and June’) Sorry. Carry on.
HCW: I enjoy the challenge to see if I can make something that straddles the line of explicit and accessible. I’m very happy if I’m pushing boundaries. My own and the audience’s. I had to work through a lot of shame to be able to arrive at the place where I can share that aspect of myself with the confidence I have now. But only some of that shame was mine, a lot of it was deeply engrained. We’re getting better at talking about sex but there’s still a long way to go and a lot of catching up to do.
IB: Your director, David Wilson, has worked on music videos for artists such as John Grant, David Guetta and Arctic Monkeys. How did you and he come to work together?
HCW: I met David when I was modelling at a life drawing class at a cruising ground in East London in 2016 – which is such an amazing sentence to be able to say! I was completely aware of his brilliant work and was thrilled that he was aware of mine. We had such an instant bond and connection with so many shared loves and influences. He saw a video of one of my infamous stage performances and thought it’d be great to adapt the piece for film. Initially we pitched it as a music video which, while we heard the artist loved it, was far too explicit! Two years later and knowing it would be never get made unless we did it ourselves, David contacted the same artist he pitched the music video to and they granted use of the song for us to make the film ourselves. David was incredible. There were so many obstacles along the way – locations turned us down and insurance companies wouldn’t touch us, as a work this queer and explicit is really hard to make. But he pushed through regardless, as he had strong belief in seeing this project come to life. We shot the film in January 2019, and we’re so excited to share a vision that involved so much time, love and belief – not just from ourselves but an incredibly talented crew.
IB: Which artists and performers have had the greatest influence on your work?
HCW: Pee-wee Herman, aka Paul Reubens, Freddie Mercury, Liza Minnelli, John Waters and Kenny Everett.
IB: That’s a pretty amazing lineup! You’ve recently finished a stint on the Edinburgh Fringe with your show Sex Education. Do you have a preference for film or live performance?
HCW: Ooh, I love both, but they’re great for different reasons. Film allows you to construct realms of fantasy that would be a lot harder to achieve in a theatrical context. Theatre gives you a human-to-human contact and connection that can create such an intensity. In terms of the making process, the absolute precision required on set with film is incredible and was amazing to experience when we shot Deep Clean. Performing for camera is something I absolutely loved getting to play around with too. I can see myself continuing to explore both mediums. And hopefully, everything crossed, I can bring Sex Education to Cardiff too!
- The film’s star, Harry Clayton Wright, poses on an immaculately polished dining table in a plush suburban home with chintzy curtains. He is on his knees, one hand behind his head, the other on his thigh, and he is wearing a blue shirt, brown slacks and necktie.
- A photograph of Blackpool promenade at night, lit up with the famous ‘Blackpool Illuminations’. In the foreground, the sign for ‘Funland’, while in the distance we can see the outline of Blackpool Tower.
- A photograph of the film’s director, David Wilson. He is wearing a decorative shirt and has short blonde hair, and I believe he is on the set of ‘Deep Clean’.
- Images of Pee-wee Herman in his customary grey jacket and red bow tie, Freddie Mercury performing live, Liza Minnelli wearing a bowler hat in the film Cabaret, the film director John Waters dressed in a brown suit against a pink background, and Kenny Everette in drag (with beard) as his television comedy character Cupid Stunt.