As a writer I am interested in exploring asexuality, queerness, and the ways they move through the world, both in more academic queer theory, and also creative writing. Writing has often served as a way for me to understand who I am, and explore the stakes of expressing that.
Below you will find a monologue I wrote for the character of Olya in Three Kingdoms, by Simon Stephens, directed by Tom David Hughes, at the Corbett Theatre. Three Kingdoms is a black comedy and detective story about the discovery of a sex trafficking ring, and explores our own personal responsibility for the world that stills allows this. At the urging of the playwright we improvised as a company on the text, making it our own. We reached a version in which I played a series of trafficked or abused women who were all metaphorically and literally voiceless until I broke the pattern with this monologue, written and delivered not as a character, but as me, about my thoughts and experiences with gender and power structures in today’s world.
“I haven’t said anything so far – two acts and I’ve said nothing! I’ve hardly even faced the audience! So here goes.
Something I think about a lot is how society wants me to be a liberated, at ease person. I’m supposed to feel amazing, and walk confidently, and not give a fuck what other people think. But I think most people probably think I’m kind of uptight, that I don’t really know how to let my hair down, that I don’t know how to let go. And that’s true.
But part of the reason I’m like that is because society doesn’t make it easy to be yourself. I’m afraid that if I wear a lower cut shirt, someone will look down it. That if I have something to drink, I will be followed home. That if I don’t look over my shoulder every couple of minutes, I will be raped. I’m tightly wound, I’m nervous, and anxious, and sometimes paranoid. I don’t trust you until you’ve proven that you’re innocent. And I find myself beating myself up for this! I should be less judgemental, less harsh.
But then I think about it, and I think: Why would I not be like this, when in my first twenty four hours in a foreign city, six complete strangers tell me I’m sexy, and another man follows me from my apartment?
Why would I not be like this, when wearing clothes that make me feel like myself makes me feel sexualized by a man who doesn’t understand that I didn’t dress like this for him, and that it is scary for me to admit that I want to wear this suit and have a flatter chest, but I also want to wear lace and heels, and that’s confusing!
Why would I not be like this, when I feel called from the bottom of my heart and the tips of my fingers, with a desire that takes my breath away, to tell stories as an actor, and I know that in six months – hah, it’s not six months anymore is it!? It’s like…three and a half! In three and a half months I will be entering an industry that relies on reputation – a reputation I could apparently lose because I won’t have sex!
I want to believe that society is changing, but I can’t expect change to happen unless I’m willing to be a part of it. So I’m trying to be less tightly wound, to let my hair down more, and to let go, and the only real way I’ve found to genuinely do that is to be more myself. To come out, to stop being talked over, to wear the blazer. It’s fucking terrifying, and it feels fucking great.
So I want to thank the Academy for this incredible honour, and for this platform to use my voice. I want to thank my parents – they’re right there watching – for their unending support and their unconditional love, for teaching me to question authority, and to be curious. I cannot possibly name you all, but here goes: I want to thank President Trump, Vice President Michael Pence, Brexit, the Neo-Nazi’s of Charlottesville, Harvey Weinstein, Adolf Hitler, homophobes, people with confederate flags on the back of their pickup trucks, and lack of gun control legislation for making me really fucking angry. This would not be possible without you.”
As Olya in Three Kingdoms, Directed by Tom Hughes. Photo by Gemma Mount