A&E: British Playwright and Actor Reflects on His One-Man Thriller, “Bleach”

Caption: Dan Ireland-Reeves stars as a young hustler in “Bleach,” opening June 5 at the Foundry at Wilton Theater Factory. Credit: Submitted photo.

What could go wrong when a damaged young hustler heads out one night to meet his latest trick? That question gets answered in Dan Ireland-Reeves’ gritty one-man thriller, “Bleach,” opening June 5 at the Foundry at Wilton Theater Factory in Wilton Manors. 

Reeves, a Millennial Brit who also stars in the production, drew upon his own observations and experiences of life in bustling London to craft the compelling story of Tyler, a rent boy whose existence is about to tumble out of control.

SFGN spoke with the articulate writer and actor about his controversial show that enjoyed an Off-Off-Broadway production earlier this year: 

SFGN: What inspired you to write this story?

Dan Reeves: “Bleach” was initially written as a response to a situation I kept seeing occur over and over again. My friends would move to London with hopes of success and happiness and just get chewed up and spat out by the place; a theme that seems universal in big cities. There’s to be a lot of weight put on where you live at the moment. Due to social media, if you’re living in a big city, you’re automatically seen as more successful. Unfortunately, with opportunities dwindling for our generation, the reality of living in the capital is usually a lot crueler. So, I wanted to reflect my thoughts on this in “Bleach.” Tyler being a rent-boy gave me the perfect scenario where a character could move through the city, interacting with the world, but still having an immense sense of isolation. A lot of my writing is very sexually charged and obviously, “Bleach” is no different. Sex allows you to quickly cut to the heart of the human condition. It’s a very raw way of looking at what people want and need in their lives. When it comes to sex, there’s really nowhere to hide. I wanted “Bleach” to feel honest and candid and I wanted Tyler to be able to say all the things we usually keep secret.

When did you write the play? Was it a quick and/or easy process?

I wrote the play in 2016 and it was an idea that I’d been thinking about for almost a year. I had the character and the concept but was struggling with the structure. Originally, the main event of the play—which I don’t want to spoil for you right now—was going to come right at the end. When it finally clicked that this should come earlier and be the main catalyst, everything came together quite quickly. From that point it only took a few months. I wrote on my phone when ideas came to me, I wrote after work, I was even writing by the pool on holiday. This play has been all consuming from the start. But in a great way. And it’s probably not even finished. Rewrites and changes are never off the table.

How do audiences typically respond to your play?

I think it’s a play that speaks to people on different levels depending on their personal life experience. I really like that there’s something for everyone in it and you can enjoy it as just an interesting story or you can really jump right into it and get involved in the mind-games of how Tyler lives his life. I specifically wrote certain parts to be open to interpretation so audiences can bring their own ideas to the story. And each audience is different as a collective. One of the most enjoyable parts for me, as a writer and performer, is watching the atmosphere change half way through the show. It starts off very funny, so, when things get more serious, it’s really interesting to feel that change in the room. I think that takes everyone by surprise. 

As the playwright AND the performer, does that create any challenges for you?

It’s a lot of pressure to perform something you’ve also written. You’re open to criticism from every angle and there’s really nowhere to hide. The flip side is that you really get to enjoy all the successes. There’s something really liberating about having full control over a show like that. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, I just go ahead and do it. It’s actually very empowering…as a performer, doing a solo show is so exhausting. There’s nobody to bounce off on stage so I really have to take responsibility for the energy in the room and make sure I’m keeping things moving. I like to think of the audience as other performers. I spend a lot of time talking directly to them, so there’s lots of opportunities for me to feed off that and really bring them into my world. It can be very scary and lonely being the only person on stage but, for “Bleach,” I think that brings out a really raw sense of vulnerability.

Dan Ireland-Reeves stars in “Bleach” for eight performances only, June 5 – 16, at the Foundry at Wilton Theater Factory, 2306 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 – 50 at RonnieLarsen.com.