Our host-ess with the least-ess had a chat with playwright James Ley, who will be curating the first ever Naked Boys Reading in Scotland! Join us for Naked Boys Reading: Pulling out at Pride House Glasgow on Sunday, 5 August 2018!

James is a playwright and screen writer living and working in Edinburgh. His recent play ‘Love Song to Lavender Menace’, which premiered at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, will be back in August at Summerhall. James’s previous plays include ‘I Heart Maths’ for Oran Mor, ‘Spain’ for Glasgay! at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, and ‘Up!’ for Edinburgh Fringe.

James loves the romantic comedy genre and a frequently recurring theme in his work is queer history. He recently received funding from the Peggy Ramsay Foundation and Creative Scotland to write ‘I Am a Telephone’, which looks at the lives of 20th century iconic artists just before and just after the AIDS crisis. James’s plays are published by Oberon Books.


We are, understandably, nervous about power play and sex, but lots of consenting adults enjoy it.

DR SHAZ: Tell us how you came (tee hee) to your saucy theme: PULLING OUT!

JAMES: I have no idea what you mean?!

Well it’s beyond ridiculous that the UK is pulling out of Europe so I think it needs to be ridiculed. And also I think at the moment we’re all realising the power we have to withdraw and to basically be really passive-aggressive and I find that interesting.

But also we sometimes do really have to pull out and that sense of abandonment and loss is also really interesting, and painful. On the flip side withdrawal and power play has the potential to be sexy, when it’s consensual and I really wanted to find texts that explore that. We are, understandably, nervous about power play and sex, but lots of consenting adults enjoy it. Or so I’ve heard from friends.

DR SHAZ: Oh James, you coy beast! Who are three of your literary heroes past or present? Why?

JAMES: Kevin Elyot, Andrea Dunbar and Augusten Burroughs

Kevin Elyot’s play ‘My Night with Reg’ is one of the most beautiful and moving things I’ve ever read. I read it before I saw it on the stage. It’s amazing on the page. The heart-breaking thing that happens halfway through is just as devastating every time you read it. And it’s a beautiful, delicate play and the characters are so specific. It’s awesome.

Andrea Dunbar, because she’s a playwright who reminds me that talent is a gift. ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’ is absolute genius. She was so young when she wrote that play and I just wish she had survived to write many more plays because I think she had a very rare talent.

Augusten Burroughs because reading his novels I feel like I have a soul mate when I’m reading them, and I find them hilariously witty and also comforting, I hugely appreciate his honesty and self-awareness. His books make life seem just as terrible as it is, but way more bearable.

DR SHAZ: Ooh, I’ll have to check out Dunbar. I saw Elyot’s ‘My Night with Reg’ when it was up in London a few years ago. It had a wonderful queer loquaciousness.

You have a show you’ve written up in August! Tell us more about this and how can we all book tickets?

JAMES: Yes, Love Song to Lavender Menace is back. It’s set in a real life bookshop called Lavender Menace, which was Scotland’s first gay and lesbian bookshop, in 1982. And it the frontrunner of Scotland’s LGBT liberation.

The play is an homage to the people who started the shop and it’s a love song to grass roots activism and enterprise and fighting for things you believe in. And it’s also a romantic comedy, because I wanted to tell a romantic comedy story because we don’t often get to do that. It’s at Summerhall from 1 -26 August (except Mondays) at 12:55.

DR SHAZ: Everyone get your asses down to Summerhall! But enough shameless self-promotion. Let’s get personal, James. Tell us a time when you’ve pulled out, and regretted it.

JAMES: This is really random, but I think it’s true that it’s the things you don’t do that you regret more than the things you do. I think Oscar Wilde said that, but better.

Once when I’d recently split up from someone, I thought it would be a good idea to go and stay on Ibiza in a yurt on my own for a week. Fuck knows what I was thinking. It was awful and I was so lonely. And this island was full of people making friends and having fun and I was either on my own driving to random little beaches or in the yurt in the middle of an alpine forest on my own, thinking anxious thoughts about snakes and tree rats.

On the last night I was thinking – oh come on James, this is pathetic, go and do something to turn this around. And I was going to get a taxi to a club called SuperMartXé and just let my hair down and it would have cost 100 euros just to get there and in a cab, but I didn’t care… And for an hour, in my head I was going, and I nearly turned this awful holiday around, but then I didn’t go and I had an early night. And I always wondered if I would have had the most amazing time. I’ll never know.

DR SHAZ: How true, James. Thank you! If you don’t go you’ll never no. Don’t pull out from NBR, folks – cum to our Glasgow premiere!

Find James online:



Photo: David Monteith-Hodge