Dominic Cooke, interview: ‘I was bullied at school for being gay — but I would never have dreamt of asking a teacher for help’
By Fiona Mountford Thursday 1 October 2015 11:37 BST
<<After two years away from theatre to film Benedict Cumberbatch’s Richard III, director Dominic Cooke is back on the stage with a new play about LGBT suicide, he tells Fiona Mountford.
After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from stage directing, Cooke, 49, is about to return with a new play at the Donmar Warehouse. Teddy Ferrara, by New York playwright Christopher Shinn, is a bracing examination of the pitfalls of progressive politics, centring on an opinionated group of gay students on an American university campus.
This play represents another step in Cooke’s long and fruitful working relationship with Shinn; he has directed two other dramas of his previously at the Royal Court — Other People, in 2000, and Now or Later, in 2008. “He’s really good on the way people deny their unconscious dimensions, particularly in relation to the effect of information technology on our psyches,” says Cooke. What was the appeal of this particular script? “One of the areas he’s talking about is that we’re in an age where introspection is being rejected in favour of projections of versions of the self. The obvious example is social media, where people put out a version of themselves and put a lot of energy into creating and reshaping that version, but meanwhile not ever going inward.” He pauses, affable and thoughtful as ever. “Those values of depth and understanding of the self are not really applauded or rewarded in our time.”
The other attraction of the play, Cooke continues, was its light-shining focus on LGBT mental illness and suicide. “Forty per cent of young LGBT people, according to a recent study, consider suicide. Which given the shift in legislation and the massive change in values in my lifetime is pretty incredible. The play gets into who is responsible.” As a gay man himself — his long-term partner is playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell — he has experienced some of the darker issues covered by Teddy Ferrara. “At school I was mercilessly bullied,” he says, “but you would never dream of going to a teacher for help, and if you did you might be told, ‘too bad’.” He’s delighted by the increasing numbers of people coming out, especially sports stars. “In the Seventies when I was growing up, the only idea you had of gay people was Quentin Crisp or John Inman. There was no notion that you could be all sorts of different types of people and also be gay.”
Teddy Ferrara is the first of three plays that Cooke will direct almost back-to-back. […]>>