Martin Lewton seems more confident in person than in the promotional videos for his latest show. This may be because he is fully clothed when we meet outside Expectations, a gay sex store in Shoreditch and the venue for his latest solo show, Naked Homo.
Middle aged and clean-shaven – a possible hangover from a show in which he shaved his entire body in front of an audience – he is dressed casually, in jeans and a figure hugging t-shirt with a leather wrist cuff. He looks every bit a self-assured urban gay man, younger than his 47 years.
Like many of his previous shows – including his most recent, an exploration of the “obvious gay subtexts” of Herman Melville’s unfinished novella Billy Budd, which won him the Star of the Brighton Festival in 2011 – Martin performs this piece nude. It’s a theme he is quick to point out
is not planned – although he admits he may be something of an exhibitionist.
His latest piece is a series of short scenes about naked gay life. There are scenes of birth, a sex club and of someone who lives as dog once they arrive home; much of the material is adult.
But it is Martin’s unique reasons for being compelled to tell these stories that make this piece interesting. He offers a voice of an outsider, someone new to the lifestyle. He has lived, he says, a charmed life; one which, for many years, involved a wife and four (now adult) children. Following his wife’s passing, he came out.
Now living in Brighton and identifying himself as a gay man – with a partner who shares his interest in theatre – Martin has taken a decade’s experience as an actor, director and playwright and begun telling the stories of his new life.
Martin speaks freely and with affection for the time he spent involved in traditional family life and with sadness about the death of his wife.
Having always been attracted to men he fell in love with a woman and, he says, it never occurred to him to stray from his marriage. He remains an involved father, having just been to collect his two youngest from University, and lights up when he talks about his kids. Well-adjusted sounding children who are supportive of his work, but, he says, not supportive enough to want to see their dad perform nude.
His motivation for writing Naked Homo, which opens on Friday, was, he says, to make gay men think about the world they live in and to tell ‘straights’ something about the gay world – a world he seems to still be in the process of telling himself about.
Martin’s recent shows have been performed ‘in situ’, a venue or location which contextualises the show. Billy Budd Sailor was performed in his own bathtub to groups of six and Naked Homo has been performed as part of a supper club in Brighton.
Most recently it was running in a gay club in Brighton when the director of the Shoreditch Fringe Festival, a seven week arts festival, saw it and invited him to bring the show to London, where Expectations offered their shop as a venue.
We tour the ‘set’ and Martin suggests how the show will unfurl in the space; a more morose piece in front of a rack of gas masks, another in a corner formed by DVDs of pornography; the audience moving through the space with him to engage in each scene, lighting harsh from the florescent bulbs, his body and moments of private thought enacted and exposed.
Naked Homo shows at EXPECTATIONS, 75 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3RY, July 6-8 at 8:30pm. Tickets £9. 18+