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A one-man, gay monodrama following the double-life of a jobbing actor and webcam model, Self Tape returns to the King’s Head Theatre after a sellout run earlier this year. The writer and star of the show, Michael Batten, details the origins of the play as he explores some of the themes presented. 

‘SELF TAPE’ by Michael Batten

‘Self Tape’? I hear you ask… is that some kind of sellotape for oneself? And what a crap subject for a play…Bear with me; for those who don’t know, a self-tape or self-taping is basically an audition we actors must do at home. We set up our iPhone cameras, we get someone to read in the other part (mine is usually my poor husband, always playing the female), and we record a scene to send off to the casting director, hardly ever setting foot into their office, unless you get lucky with an in-person re-call. Since lockdown, the audition process has almost always kicked off this way. 

Initially, I wanted to write a piece about the acting industry. What it is like nowadays to have tons of self-tapes, from the outrageous things they get you to do for adverts, whether that’s eating a load of carbs (goodbye abs) whilst saying, “no need for napkins” straight down the lens, pretending to be a conductor, playing Beethoven’s 9th on YouTube and using your nan’s knitting needle as a baton, or singing to a backing track for a new musical that’s coming to the West End. I’ve even had to tap dance down a cobbled street using my costume from the London Dungeon to get that ‘Victorian feel’ that was asked for. We do all of this without ever having a formal meeting. It feels like we have lost that connection with other humans, and for an actor, that is essential to our performance.

Self Tape
Michael Batten Self Tape (Olter Ego Studios – Image Supplied).

Then, 2020 hit, lockdown happened, and self-taping was here to stay. During lockdown, I had many friends in the business who turned to OnlyFans and online cam-sites for money. Actors went from using cameras as a way of getting work in what society calls high art (i.e. good) to now using those same cameras to earn money in what society deems demoralising sex work (i.e. bad). The stories they told me about clients ranged from hilarious to shocking, and some were outright hideous role-plays. I didn’t know this kind of role-playing existed. I’m very ‘vanilla’ (i.e. boring) – ask my husband! I researched and discovered a new world of sex-positivity, fetish and kink. It dawned on me that the people who pay for models on cam-sites also search for human connection and satisfaction by watching somebody on screen. The only difference between self-taping and camming is that for one of them, you have to get your penis out and probably ejaculate, and for the other, you don’t: though to be honest, historically, you could argue that point (#CastingCouch).

Therefore, my original idea of a play solely about the acting industry became something entirely different. How about writing a play about the parallels between self-taping and camming, wherein the first instance, we open ourselves up to get the dream role we’d love to play, and in the second, we open ourselves up bravely, yet vulnerably, for other people’s sexual gratification(?), enabling us to get by and hopefully pay the bills. There’s a fine line between what we would and wouldn’t do as actors. Ultimately, it’s still performing, whether one ends in a curtain call or an orgasmic climax. They both end in some form of applause from someone watching in the dark.


What I discovered while writing this play is that models/sex workers on cam sites or elsewhere are people – are themselves actors – and they all have relationships outside of the industry. Ultimately, we are all complex individuals, made up of many characters, and the main protagonist in the play (Jonas) is merely that, perhaps to the extreme. I wanted to shine a light on the many roles we play in contemporary society, particularly queer society, whether it’s as a husband, a son, a brother, a nephew, a friend, a colleague or a client. 

The play’s starting point is a combination of my experiences as an actor and the testimonies of friends who have worked as webcam models. The principal character (Jonas) could be played by anybody, male, female, non-binary or gender-fluid. The role itself is universal, and though some of the demands made of him may appear specific or very particular, I believe at some point, we have all been through at least one of the situations he finds himself having to wade through. 

– Michael Batten –

Book tickets (from £10) for Self Tape:

Self Tape runs from 18 June to 2 July at King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London N1 1QN, United Kingdom.

Self Tape Michael Batten
Michael Batten Self Tape (Olter Ego Studios – Image Supplied).
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