Matthew Baldwin talks about sex, violence, and fascism – Foam at the Finborough Theatre from 19 March.

Matthew Baldwin is to appear in FOAM which is a gay play about a skinhead called Nicky Crane at London's Finborough Theatre.

Matthew Baldwin is to appear in Foam which runs at the Finborough Theatre from 19 March to 13 April 2024. The play is based on the true story of Nicky Crane, a fanatically racist and extremely violent fascist skinhead who roamed the streets during the 70s and 80s as a street fighter for the British Movement. He viciously attacked minorities and his political opponents, for which he spent time in jail. He was a swastika tattooed Nazi who espoused the virtues of National Socialism and its leader Adolf Hitler. 

It seems unfathomable, but Nicky Crane was also gay and a regular on London’s gay scene in venues such as Heaven, Bolts and The Bell. As a cover for his homosexuality, he worked on door security in gay venues. He came out as gay in 1992 on Channel 4’s Out programme, before he died from an AIDS related illness in 1993. 

Matthew Baldwin is a writer and actor. He has youthful charm and a kindly manner. He loves to perform as the pantomime dame, and his performances have audiences laughing in the aisles. Matthew also has a résumé as both a successful writer and actor in serious queer theatre. He therefore moves with ease between playing a pantomime dame in Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick and the role of the villainous Mosley in Foam.

Matthew, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, as I’m sure that you’re very busy. You play two characters in Foam, Mosley and a character called Craig. You’ve explored, both as an actor and a playwright, the difficult circumstances around being queer in recent historical times, before we had the opportunity to be our authentic selves. How do you think Harry McDonald’s Foam fits into your own landscape of playwriting?

Harry’s play is an up close exploration of a particular person and moment and in that sense carries a far greater responsibility than any of my work. I was immediately attracted to it when I read it because of the quality of the writing. There is such panache in the language and Harry has a very good ear for dialogue – Mosley for example can be absolutely, deliciously villainous. Most importantly he keeps the drama up close, truthful and specific. Truthful and specific are the key to universality – if you’ll allow me to jerk off for a moment. But it’s true! You can even explore something terrible as long as you stay truthful and specific – Zone of Interest proved that on screen recently. Harry’s work is similar in the sense that it draws an authentic portrait at which we must stare and that in turn, forces us to ask ourselves how we may be complicit in the horror. Oh, and there’s some gags too!

There is a disproportionate overlap between fascism and homosexuality, and this fact sits uncomfortably with many of us. How has Foam made you think about that and what insights can you share with us about why that might be?

Gays in fascism is like a kind of electrified Stockholm Syndrome with Wagner playing in the background. If you are going to fall in love with your oppressors it may as well be the ones with the leather boots and the BMW. I think the hyper masculine iconography is part of it. Being attracted to the same thing you fear. It attracts insecure people. Then there are all the reasons fascism appeals to anyone – strength, conformity, not being burdened with decision making. Not all gays are clever and sensitive. But fascism never flew in the UK like it did in Germany. Largely because the country, having won the First World War, wasn’t as insecure as the defeated Germany was. 

Matthew Baldwin is never far from laughter. There’s a content warning relating to violence (plus sex!). Are there some laughs along the way or are we in for a rough ride?

Oh there’s plenty of laughs. Harry’s writing is truthful and specific and there’s always comedy even in the most alarming situations. My Mosley isn’t the historical Mosley – he is a figment of Nicky Crane’s imagination – very charming and funny in a way. The best humour is dark humour in my opinion and Matthew our director is very good at finding moments of levity. And because it’s truthful and specific there are moments of everything just like real life. Sad, funny, sexy, shocking, comforting – it’s all there! The violence is very sexy and the sex is largely violent.

I believe you recently took a break to teach kids English in Thailand. Do you have the need to escape from the theatre occasionally? 

Indeed. I’m a massive show off and egotist and it sometimes does me good to attempt to do things that aren’t quite so egocentric. I’m 46 this year and I am single and have no children. It’s easy to calcify in a small, gay world so by heading into the unknown I was attempting to quicken myself. And the rewards were greater than I ever imagined.

What plans do you have for after Foam?

After Foam I’m off to my school in Thailand to do another 4 months there. Then back to London in September to start promoting Jack and the Beanstalk, Looking for the Top at the Charing Cross Theatre. Which is the real me? They both are!

Tickets for Foam

Foam plays from Tuesday, 19 March – Saturday, 13 April 2024 at Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED, United Kingdom.

Post Show Discussion 27 March
Cultural critic Barry Pierce will be chairing a post-show discussion with Foam playwright Harry McDonald and director Matthew Iliffe on 27 March. Additional guests to be announced. All events are free to ticket holders for that evening’s performance.

Best LGBT Gay Theatre In London March 2024



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