Bite-sized Q & A with…Gus Gowland on his Love Bites piece at York Theatre Royal

Lister scene: Gus Gowland’s Love Bite, The Streets Of York, will celebrate Gentleman Jack Anne Lister’s unofficial wedding at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate

THE Love Season will soon set hearts pulsing at York Theatre Royal, where the Step 3 reopening will make its mark with Love Bites: a love letter to live performance and a toast to the city’s creative talent.

More than 200 artists from a variety of art forms applied for £1,000 love-letter commissions to be staged on May 17 – the first day that theatres can reopen after restrictions are lifted – and May 18.

The 22 short pieces selected will be performed each night at 8pm under the overall direction of Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster. Each “bite” will take hold for five minutes.

In the second in a series of CharlesHutchPress Q&As, musical theatre writer/composer Gus Gowland has five minutes to discuss his work, The Streets of York.

How did you hear about Love Bites, Gus?

“I always keep an eye on what is happening at York Theatre Royal so I was aware of their Love Season. I first saw the call-out for artists on the theatre’s Twitter.

“I’ve been keen to work at the Theatre Royal for a while and this was such a wonderful opportunity to be part of the reopening and share the space with a huge number of artists. It was too exciting an opportunity to miss!”

What is your connection with York?

“I moved here just over two years ago with my partner, Max May. He took a job as chief executive officer of Rural Arts, a charity based in Thirsk, and is from Yorkshire so it’s been lovely for me to get to know his hometown. Since being here I’ve really fallen in love with it. There’s so much art being made here that makes it feel exciting.”  

What will feature in your Love Bite, The Streets Of York, and why?

“My Love Bite is a musical theatre song, inspired by the unofficial wedding of Anne Lister (alias Gentleman Jack), which took place at Holy Trinity Church, in Goodramgate, in 1834.  It’s a fascinating moment, seen through the eyes of Lister herself (as performed, brilliantly, by Dora Rubinstein).

“I love that this incredible moment in LGBTQ+ history happened right here in York. It felt apt to be able to honour and acknowledge Lister whilst also paying homage to the very streets we all know so well.”

Dora Rubinstein: Playing Anne Lister in Gus Gowland’s The Streets Of York

What changes would you make to the streets of York?

“Right now, I’m loving all the outside seating that has popped up everywhere, so I’d make sure that was a permanent feature.”

In lockdown, what have you missed most about theatre?

“Oh gosh, where do I start? I’ve missed sharing an experience with other people. I’ve missed watching a story unfold in front of me, with the electricity of live performance. I’ve seen a huge amount of online theatre and it’s brilliant but there’s nothing that can replace that sensation of sitting in a theatre with an audience, collectively gasping, crying, laughing, at the show in front of you.” 

What’s coming next for you?

“I’m releasing an EP of original songs, co-written with Craig Mather, called In Motion. We met when Craig was in my musical Pieces Of String and wrote these songs via Whatsapp during Lockdown 1 and it’s very exciting to be sharing them with the world. That will be on all streaming sites from today (14/5/2021). 

“I’m also working on revisions to Pieces Of String and have a few other shows bubbling under that will hopefully be in a theatre before long.” 

What would be the best way to spend five minutes if you had a choice?

“Probably listen to a song. Right now, it would be anything by Ben Platt or MUNA [electronic pop group from Los Angeles]. That way I can be transported to a memory, a different place or time, just through the magic of the music.”

Tickets for Love Bites cost Pay What You Feel at or on 01904 623568.