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Salford’s John O’Neil on his new play, his favourite theatre in Manchester and Pride

It is Manchester Pride next month and as well as the usual celebration on Canal Street and beyond, there is a new play headed to 53two which is written by a Salford-born writer and actor, John O’Neil.

John describes it as ‘a new queer play that looks at the encounters between two men on different sides of the sexuality fence.’ We caught up with him to find out more.

How did you get the idea to write Coke, Machines, Stars and Kisses?

It had been a play I had started a long time ago.

It was a story that felt like it kept happening or I kept hearing about similar moments from friends.

A couple of months ago I discovered it on the hard drive, gave it a read and even after all this time, it still felt so relevant.

I feel it captures the feelings and thoughts we all have about ourselves, our sexuality and who we are at some point. I wanted to keep exploring it and see where I could go with it, with these characters and hopefully be able to share something that resonates and puts into focus a story we don’t often see.

 Do you think that LGBTQ+ representation is heading in the right direction on screen and on stage?

 I feel like it is. There is always more work to do. There is always more space for us to take up and place ourselves in. There is always more conversations to be had. I think it still requires people who are not in the community to keep stepping up and speaking out.

 What has been the most challenging aspect of writing this play?

The most challenging thing was being able to reign my imagination into a place that could work on a stage.

I wanted to combine the reality of the situation, the moment and the characters with the beauty of what they are seeing.

I wanted to create a piece that really brings the audience into the world, I want them to feel, to really hear and to think.

Oh, and perhaps the fact the whole play is set on a trampoline… that’s been a challenge.

What was the last thing you saw in Manchester on stage that you loved and why?

Oooooh I loved Beginning at The Royal Exchange. I thought the storytelling was beautiful, just two people living, sharing, challenging and playing.

The acting and direction were quality.

It just felt real, like I knew them.

Bryony Shanahan is such a stunning director.

She gets people and audiences – the way she is able to carefully marry them both is beauty.

53two is a supportive place and more than a venue. What does it mean it you?

I love 53two, I love what it means for creatives and people on the grass root level trying to make work and tell their stories.

This feels like a hub of creativity and a space where we are allowed to explore, to make and create.

How would you persuade audiences to come and see this play on Pride weekend?

It’s a one-hour play, it’s fun, it’s real and hopefully shows a queer story that isn’t often seen on stages.

It looks at exploring ourselves and sexuality from a different lens. It’s a play that captures an evening of a gay man and a straight man, it allows the two to be themselves and talk openly about the world and how we’re seen.

Cokes, Machines, Stars and Kisses is at 53two on 25th and 26th August and can be booked here.

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