A conversation with London-based playwright Louis Rembges about ‘Facehugger’, a play about coming out and queer aliens

Poster for ‘Facehugger’. Courtesy of Louis Rembges.

I had the pleasure to see ‘Facehugger’, the debut play of Sheffield-born playwright and actor Louis Rembges as part of the Catalyst Festival at Mountview Theatre in Peckham. I have previously seen Louis performing with The Delta Collective in the spellbinding queer adaptation of ‘Lysistrata‘, directed by Olivia Stone at the Cockpit Theatre.

Below the stimulating conversation me and Louis had after the debut of ‘Facehugger’, tackling queer visibility and the societal pressures to come out of the closet. The play has been directed by Emily Aboud, produced by Grace Dickson, and featured Douglas Clark as Matt.

Francesco Ferranti: Hey Louis, can you introduce yourself and tell us more about your first approach to theatre and creative writing?

Louis Rembges: Hello! Well, I’m from Sheffield and have been living in London since I moved here to study Theatre and Performance at Goldsmiths UoL. I was always involved in drama bits and bobs growing up but mostly from the performing side, and it wasn’t until I graduated that I really began to focus on writing for theatre. I have always written in one form or another, but I always kept it separate from any theatre antics unless it was a project at school or uni. It took a weirdly long time for me to pair the two together in my own time, I suppose I wanted to keep a lot of it private. As I’ve just learned, having a full length piece on in front of a paying audience is extremely terrifying, and uncomfortably exposing. I think my new approach to it will be trying to enjoy it more once it’s on (!).

Francesco Ferranti: What does the word queer mean to you? From my understanding, queer is used to define a process, an act that is never-ending, a fluid act of creation…

Louis Rembges: I’m not sure, I think your definition is a lovely way of looking at it. Having worked at The Glory (big ol’ queer pub) for two years (and still going strong) and being surrounded by queer people has filled my life with a lot more life, and I’ve never been happier. I’m not sure how to put it into words still, but queer is lots more life than I had before. 

Francesco Ferranti: What’s the creative journey behind ‘Facehugger’ ? Where does the title come from? When we met few weeks ago [at Farr’s School of Dancing pub in Dalston] you explained to me the concept of “queer alien”: what do you mean by that?

Louis Rembges: ‘Facehugger’ is about Facehuggers. Horrible fantastic spider monsters that attach themselves to your face, suffocate you, lay an egg in your chest and then die, leaving you to wake up and give birth to their queen. And police dramas. Specifically ‘The Bill‘ [one of the most popular British cop shows, which ran for over 25 years]. And underneath it all it’s a slightly autobiographical story of my own coming out, and how psychologically damaging that can be. I just want everyone to shag who they want without anyone needing to clarify it all. Yes I’m gay, I’m also a fucking Libra! Fuck off!! I think that’s what I was getting at… I was also interested in writing something that would sucker punch an unsuspecting audience. Maybe if I could attract an audience that wouldn’t necessarily choose to come and see a ‘queer play’ then I could actually make someone think about something they wouldn’t normally give a second thought. The concept of coming out is as solid as the labels we are given and give ourselves. I’m not saying it’s bad to have labels in some cases, if it’s the person’s choice, but I wanted to explore the weird need to label the ‘other’ or something that’s not you, just so you can be comfortable around it. So that’s Facehugger’s starting point if it were to be pinned down.

Francesco Ferranti: What are your main theatrical inspirations?

Louis Rembges: My main theatrical inspirations with writing specifically stem from reading copious amounts of modern play texts. It’s easy to miss plays as they come and go in a  flash, and also it’s an expensive industry to watch from the outside. Sometimes I think I enjoy reading a play than I do watching it, which sort of defeats the point I know. I love the Royal Court Theatre and the writing they put on, so I studied year after year through their alumni of their Writing Groups until I got into one. And it was after my experience in my Group that I wrote the latest draft of ‘Facehugger’.

Francesco Ferranti: What are your thoughts on the societal pressures to come out of the closet?

Louis Rembges: As I said, I think it is pretty needless. If the pressure wasn’t there then I think that there’s definitely pride to be had in loudly being who you are and not being afraid to show the world who you love. But there is a real pressure, because people are scared of things that aren’t themselves reflected back at them. I feel that even though it’s getting better than it has been in the past, coming out is still more about the people who aren’t queer being able to put other people in boxes than about individual pride.

Francesco Ferranti: Did you have any target audience in mind in writing the piece? Are you planning on reworking the script in the future? Do you have any new projects in the making?

Louis Rembges: My specific audience is an audience that want to be entertained. I think it’s important that that’s first and foremost. The sucker punch element can only be effective if you have people on side first, and then you reveal what it is they’ve been laughing at. I would love (and hope) for queer people to come and relate to ‘Facehugger’, and then maybe for an audience that wouldn’t typically think about queer issues to come away with some food for thought. Facehugger started two years ago at the Bath Fringe with a wonderful company called Fake Escape, and having it grow some new legs for Mountview’s Catalyst festival has been a really nice roundabout trip. We’ve made a solid team with Emily Aboud as director, Grace Dickson as producer and Douglas Clark (who are all mega) so hopefully this isn’t the end. But if it is, it’s been great.

Stay tuned for Louis’ upcoming projects on Instagram and Twitter

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