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Peter Bull from Above the Stag spoke to QX about his life, his theatre troupe and putting on gay plays.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m from Australia originally, I came over several years ago, more than I care to remember, for a year backpacking and I’m still here!

What was your first job over here? 

Harrods, in the menswear downstairs, it was like being in ‘Are You Being Served?’

How did Above the Stag come about? 

Sort of by accident, we were looking for our own place rather than using other people’s theatres constantly – I think we worked at every fringe theatre in London – and somebody phoned me up one day and said ‘I’m sitting at the Stag pub and there’s a sign that says ‘function room for hire’, come down now!’ Hence the name ‘Above the Stag’ because that’s where we were in Victoria. And then the building got demolished with the redevelopment of Victoria so we were homeless for a bit. Then when we moved here, our worry was ‘will people find us and follow us?’ and guess what it was the biggest panto we’d ever done, the biggest production!

Peter Bull Is Artistic Director of Above The Stage Theatre

Was it hard to get together a gay theatre space?

We sort of fell into that as well. We originally said we would do the odd gay play, and then we found out that we did them rather well, and there were other people doing musicals very well or Shakespeare very well. Why should I compete with the RSC, you know? And nobody else was doing it, Drill Hall wasn’t there anymore, Ovalhouse used to do a lot more than they do now…

The Theatre Royal Stratford maybe?

They do, yeah. Rikki [Beadle-Blair] does a lot and Rikki’s been here, but they’re not exclusively doing that. Rikki does a lot of good work, I would say he’s not as commercial as we can be sometimes. And we make no apologies for that, because we’re doing Bathhouse the Musical, which we make no bones about, is a purely commercial summer pleaser and that allows us to take a risk on something like ‘Hard Rain’ or ‘Orton’ new writing.

And that leads me into my next question, how did you get funding originally, or have you never had funding? 

We don’t. It’s a band of very loyal people putting their own time and a lot of their own money into it!

Above the Stag, Miles Street, Vauxhall, SW8 1SF
• Bathhouse the Musical! is playing at Above the Stag until 20th July.

Above The Stag Theatre – LGBT-focused Theatre!


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