Photo of Gary Thomas boxing

Gay wrestling drama exploring challenges of 1990s life to hit the stage in Putney

A hard-hitting autobiographical tale about gay wrestlers is heading to the stage in Putney.

Writer-director Gary Thomas, 50, wants to recreate his life-defining experiences in the 1990s of wrestling with his gay friends for the stage.

Debuting at The Arches, St Mary’s Church, on June17, ‘Wrestling for Pleasure’ received a £1,200 grant from the Wandsworth Arts Fringe.

Thomas said: “When I came out when I was younger my mum never really accepted it and it was just never spoken about.

“Boxing and then wrestling between me and my friends became new-found homes and that’s what this play explores.

“It’s about me and my gay friends when we were younger and how we all came together through our love of wrestling.”

But for Thomas, the play also explores the history of being gay.

He said: “It’s easy to forget being gay was illegal in 1967. That’s not long ago at all.

“Being gay in the 1990s, for me and my friends, it was wild and we wanted to protect ourselves, so that was another reason we started boxing and then wrestling.

“The play certainly explores being vulnerable and what it means to be a man today from a gay angle.”

On 14 March, the Wandsworth Arts Fringe Grants announced the eighteen different creative companies, community organisations and artists who will receive a share of £32,382.

Thomas explained how important this grant is for him and the gay community.

He said: “The grant is amazing because there has never really been an even playing field for gay actors and writers.

Photo of Gary Thomas' project
EXTRA TIME: Gary Thomas’ 2015 film with Doctor Who star Louise Jameson

“Part of the Wandsworth grant involves us speaking to gay men now in their 50s and 60s who lived through when it was illegal to be yourself, so I’m really excited to do that.

“But I want all people to come and see this play, not just gay people.”

Thomas stresses that despite the serious subject matter, there will still be a comedic, fun element in the production.

“There’s definitely going to be some humour involved.

“It’s also fun and challenging imagining how wrestling actions are going to be performed on stage.”

Thomas’ other work includes a film about a disabled escort called ‘He came with wheels’, which came out in 2004 and was shown at the London Disability Film Festival.

He also made a film called ‘Extra Time’, which came out in 2015, with Doctor Who star Louise Jameson.

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