"Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree…"

Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill, a film inspired by A Life in Three Acts, 2009

I once asked Matthew Glamorre, the brilliant, beautiful boy behind Smashing! and so much else, why he had stopped dressing up. Matthew, I should say, was capable of making leigh Bowery look ordinary. It was simple, he said: that the level of violence he felt necessary to maintain the act was to high a price. It wasn’t that Matthew ever went around hitting people, but he had to anticipate that others might want to hit him. I was with Matthew once one night in Soho when we hit came upon a street brawl – alone, I would have turned back. Matthew seized my arm and walked me confidently and quickly and very safely through the mayhem.

That wasn’t an aside, but an acknowledgment of the importance of the work, the simple work of being done by actor Bette Bourne, son of Stoke Newington and uncrowned queen of Notting Hill. He has just finished A Life in Three Acts with playwright Mark Ravenhill at the Soho Theatre. This scripted conversation took in growing up gay in Hackney, discovering Soho by following Quentin Crisp in the street, the radical drag troupe Bloolips and more. Now in his 70s, it’d be a mistake to see Bette as a twinkly granny, a stately homo. “You think it’s easy to wear lipstick in the street? Just you try.”

He’s a tough cookie.