|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
3. The Simulated Wank (1985)
The Au Pairs
|As a student, I
did a fair amount of acting with the university dramatic society.
However, competition for roles was fierce, and my confidence in
auditions was initially weak. As a result, for the first couple of my
five years at Uni, I could only land fairly ropey bit parts, in some
fairly ropey productions (my Pablo Gonzales in “A Streetcar Named
Desire” and my Fedotik in “Three Sisters” will not be remembered
as dramatic triumphs).
However, on joining the German
department in my second year, my stock rose, erm, dramatically. As
seemingly the only available and willing German student with a previous
acting record, I was immediately – without audition – cast in the
leading role (der Heutige) in Max Frisch’s complex “Die Chinesische
Mauer”, which was to be that year’s official German department
production. It was a massive challenge: my first lead role, in a foreign
language which I hadn’t studied for over two years, and I was to be on
stage more or less constantly, with truly vast numbers of lines to
learn. During the initial script readings, I couldn’t disguise the
fact that I barely had a clue what my lines meant, and I could see
several furrowed brows around the room, clearly thinking “My God, what
have we done?”
Still, I rose to the challenge and the
production was a great success. This lead to a casting the following
year as Wang the water seller in Brecht’s “Der guter Mensch von
Sezuan” (sod the alienation effect – we rewrote the songs with
catchy little tunes, and I played Wang as “the audience’s friend”,
rather in the style of Buttons, or Winnie The Pooh). Finally, after my
year away in Berlin, I was cast as Hänschen Rilow in Frank Wedekind’s
notorious expressionist drama Frühlings
This play, known in English as Spring
Awakening, is a superb, powerful exploration of repressed adolescent
sexuality. There is a rape, there is an abortion, there is group
masturbation, and there is – gasp! – boy on boy kissing. It was
banned in Germany for many years – and even in the 1980s, our
professor was known to be opposed to idea of us staging a production.
So, naturally, we waited until he was away on sabbatical, then did the
I was delighted to find that my three
scenes were as follows.
One. A soliloquy. A water closet is wheeled on stage. The door
swings open. I am in my nightshirt, sitting on the toilet, looking at a
postcard reproduction of a classical nude and getting all steamed up.
Eventually, frustrated by the refusal of the image to come to life, I
rip the postcard up, and chuck it down the toilet. The door shuts, and I
am wheeled off to the sound of flushing.
Two. A home for disturbed boys. Again in my nightshirt, I join a
circle of boys who proceed to do the “wanking onto a coin” game.
Originally, our producers wanted this to be accompanied by Frankie Goes
To Hollywood’s “Relax” – but we talked them out of it. We had no
need of such cheap stunts!
Three. A love scene – between me and the most handsome lad in the
department, I was delighted to discover. Result!
Actually, the rehearsals were painful.
I think the poor guy was terrified of having to do that scene, bless
him. As for me, my coming out process had by then reached the stage
where most people in the department probably knew I was gay, but I still
didn’t talk about it, except to my immediate circle of friends. So,
unfortunately, I was just as uncomfortable in rehearsals as he was.
There was also an unavoidable part of
the scene where I had to kiss him on the lips. “Er küßt ihn auf den
Mund.” Can’t get clearer than that, I suppose. By performance time,
I was quite comfortable with this (after all, he was gorgeous) – but
on watching the video afterwards, you can quite clearly see him swiftly
recoiling from me as if he’d been given an electric shock. It must
have been such a horror for the poor lad…
The production was a resounding hit –
so much so, that we were asked to take it down to London as part of that
year’s national German student drama festival.
And so it came to pass that I ended up
having a simulated wank in front of the German ambassador.
Bang went any chance of a future career
in the Foreign Office.
And I never acted on stage again.