‘From 1967 to 1974 I was busy pursuing a career in the straight theatre. I’d heard somewhere about painted freaks in the south wearing silly clothes and saying ridiculous things and assumed it was part of the queenery I found so unappealing. When I arrived in London in 1973 I saw them for myself and decided what they represented was definitely not for me. But there was a nagging doubt; perhaps these people were having a better time than I was; perhaps my weekend gay status was incompatible with the hard-working a-sexual, professional actor image I presented during the rest of the week. The doubt remained until I joined Gay Sweatshop in 1975. I joined with great fear and trepidation – after all, I could be ruining my career – (I remember vividly the first press call when I deliberately disassociated myself from the group, sat with my back to the cameras, afraid of being publicly identified as a homosexual) but somehow found the courage to direct two of the plays in the first season. At the end of the first six months I knew that the previous seven years had been preparation for this.’ Drew Griffiths
In 1984, Drew Griffiths, actor, playwright and one of the company originators was the tragic victim of a homophobic murder by a man he picked up at the Elephant and Castle. The single Why? from Bronski Beat’s album Age of Consent was dedicated to his memory.
Before his murder, Drew had struggled with mental health problems. Noel Greig (2008) describes Drew:
‘We [Drew Griffiths] had a very, very good working relationship on As Time Goes By, we worked really well and on the back of that we were asked to write a play for television, Only Connect, which is still shown at festivals.’
‘So lovely really. Very fragile, very, very fragile. Steely as well. Passionate about theatre, a brilliant actor, a lovely writer. Passionate about theatre. A real combination of steel and really, really fragile. … He never recovered from the indignities of being gay, all that stuff I was talking about [the idignities of being a gay man pre-1967 and the legalisation of homosexuality in Britain]. I’m sure it wasn’t just that… but just thinking about Drew. But his passion. Gay Sweatshop was a mission for him, because it was in a way what Bradford had been for me. Sort of a revenge in a way, a creative revenge. … And his relationships with people were very intense. Like his relationship with me was very intense. Too intense. We’d contribute different scenes and different sections and then we’d do a little bit of evading. Creative evading. It worked really well for As Time Goes By and it sort of held together for the television play [Only Connect]. We were mean’t to write the Edward Carpenter play together, but by that time he was ill, and it had all got awful. We had to have this terrible meeting, big company meeting. When it was the men’s company and the women’s company of Gay Sweatshop, and Drew had come to it and was just awful, we had to ask him to withdraw. It was painful. Horrible. We didn’t really know exactly what was going on, we just knew that something awful was happening to Drew but we didn’t quite know. … It was all going on while we were writing the television play together. But by the time we were meant to start writing the Edwards Carpenter play it was impossible to work with him. He was mad. He’d gone mad. That’s the only way I can say it, although I’m sure I’m not allowed to say it these days. But he was scrambled.’