Currently appearing in Fat Blokes, which explores body types and queer masculinity through dance and personal stories, Joe Spencer tells Giverny Masso how artist Scottee inspired him to start performing in the first place…
How did you get into performance?
Funnily enough, the first person to put me on stage was Scottee. He was doing the mixed-bill cabaret show Eat Yr Heart Out, which he brought to Manchester. I was helping backstage, and he said: “When we bring it back, you’re doing something.” I hadn’t ever thought about performing before. I’d done GCSE drama, but that was just so I didn’t have to do PE. It wasn’t like: “Would you like to do something?” – it was: “You’re doing something.”
What was your act in Eat Yr Heart Out?
I did a drag act called Joyce D’Vision featuring covers of the music of Joy Division. After doing that, I did shows in bars and night clubs. I’ve now got a funny job working as a go-go dancer in a bar in Manchester as a result of my work as Joyce D’Vision.
How did you get involved in Scottee: Fat Blokes?
Scottee had put out an open call. I hadn’t seen him in years, and I thought it sounded good. I sent off an application and did the audition process, which was a really lovely day with all of us doing a workshop together. They told us: “This isn’t an audition. No one is in competition. We just want to see who you are and we’ll make the show from what we see.” Fat people are always picked on when they’re alone, but when we are together we have solidarity.
What was it like making the show?
I thought: “This is proper theatre and I’ve not done this before, having to do the same thing each time, having a script.” I got to the first rehearsal and asked: “Where’s the script?” And Scottee said: “We’re going to do it now.” It’s billed as a dance show but it’s also about us and our stories and experiences. It’s about the confusing head space of fat. It’s the first time for me to be serious, having to stand up and talk about my feelings is really different for me.
What is your biggest challenge in the show?
It’s always that five minutes before you go on stage. I think: “What if I shit myself?” and then there’s a rush of anxiety. One day though, I just thought: “I’m going to enjoy this,” and it worked.
Do you think there is enough representation of different body types on stage?
The LGBT+ [community] does have a way to go in terms of representing different body types. We’re going through a body positivity movement at the moment, but it’s about the ‘right kind’ of fat. It’s about still being in the right shape and proportions. Body positivity is only ever used to sell something. What this show says is that we haven’t found euphoria and self-enlightenment, but we don’t completely hate ourselves. We’re in the middle and we’re allowed to be in the middle.
CV Joe Spencer
First professional role: Eat Yr Heart Out (2010)