For those of you out of the loop, ‘Hot Gay Time Machine’ is an award-winning (the Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence, we’ll have you know) cabaret-comedy extravaGAYnza starring Toby Marlow and Zak Ghazi-Torbati and directed by Lucy Moss.
Toby and Zak have already wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe and in London’s West End, and now they’re heading for a two night rendezvous at The Other Palace tonight and tomorrow night (so book your tickets right this instance) before heading to the Underbelly’s Belly Dancer venue 2-26 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
We caught up with Toby and Zak, ahead of their performances at The Other Palace, to talk all things hot, gay, and… time machines (?!), alongside Pride and even Queen Bey herself.
Hey guys! Can you tell us a bit about the premise behind ‘Hot Gay Time Machine’?
Toby: Well, it’s very hot.
Zak: Very gay.
Toby: And there’s a time machine.
Zak: Is that it?
Toby: Well the show is also a musical extravaGAYnza, where we take the audience through our lives as gay men.
Zak: Yeah, through song and attempted dance, we go through some of our most important moments, like coming out to your mum…
Toby: …or looking at cocks in a locker room.
Zak: It’s actually a very subtle and moving show. Very emotional.
Toby: It’s essentially the gay version of Les Mis. OMG. Gay Mis!
Can you confirm or deny the rumours that the show is the long-awaited third and all-out gay part to the ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ movie trilogy?
Zak: That was actually what we were hoping for, but we never heard back from the producers of the film, but we think it’s really important.
Toby: Yes, it’s not actually a well known fact but there is virtually no gay representation in the hot tub and time machine communities.
Z: And that’s frankly disgraceful in this gay and age.
What’s the story behind how you both met, along with director Lucy Moss?
Zak: So the three of us actually met doing a musical together at University. Me and Tobes were playing the romantic leads in Rent.
Toby: Yes, LEADS – Collins and Angel.
Zak: And apparently Lucy was in it as well but she was in the chorus though so we don’t remember her.
Toby: Then one day, obviously drunk, we decided it would be jokes to do a musical show together called Hot Gay Time Machine.
Zak: Cause when two gay men get drunk in a room, it’s either gonna result in sex or a musical cabaret.
Toby: So we applied to the Uni’s theatre with the threat that if they didn’t give us the slot, it would be considered an act of homophobia.
Zak: Obviously, we had no freaking clue what the show was about, and so a week before, straight-director-Lucy came to the rescue, sat us down and forced us to write it.
Toby: Yeah, it was a lot of late nights. And a lot of Domino’s pizza.
Zak: And the run was ridiculous. We spent nearly our entire £400 budget on shimmer curtain, had about five costume changes, and Tobes thought it would be funny to perform the entire single ladies dance by himself.
Toby: I really was spectacular.
The show features some hilarious original musical numbers. One track in particular ‘Try Not to Look at Cocks in the Locker Room’ really en-captures what it’s like being a teen coming to terms with your sexuality. What’s the process like when coming up with such fun and relatable songs?
Zak: To be honest, it changes for every song. Most of the time, one of us will have an idea that we bring to the group about something we find funny or that we’re passionate about, and we just brainstorm how it might work as a song. We take a lot of inspiration from conversations with our friends, pop culture and our personal experiences.
Toby: I don’t think we ever think of our songs as speaking for or commenting on behalf of the LGBTQ community as a whole, as I don’t think it’s really our place to. But of course, a lot of things that we find funny or have happened to us can be quite relatable for people.
Zak: Then once we have a strong idea that we’re all happy with, we plan the structure of the song, making sure the basic joke or premise of the song can be comically sustained. We write a paraphrase of each line, with possible jokes and rhymes we might want to include. Then we just work through it and repeatedly re-draft it till we’re happy.
Toby: Sometimes, it’s a really quick process or it can take forever. For example, when we wrote ‘Straight Representation’, that took about two full days because it’s so lyrically dense with constant internal rhymes.
Zak: Whereas with a song like Cock in the Locker Room, I think we wrote it in less than twenty minutes.
Toby: And you can probably tell.
‘Hot Gay Time Machine’ is playing as part of The Other Palace’s Pride Festival, before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. What does Pride mean to you?
Toby: Ooh, getting deep. For me, Pride is all about celebrating the difference of experiences and the diversity of identities within the LGBTQ community, as well coming together to unite in our shared experience as queer people.
Zak: That’s an interesting question. For years, even when I had come out, I hated the idea of Pride. I used to say, “so what if I’m gay, I don’t want to sing and dance about it. Straight people don’t do that”. But obviously, that was underpinned by a lot of shame and internalised homophobia. I hated it because really I was ashamed of who I was. But now I’ve really come to appreciate its value. So for me, Pride represents rejecting that shame that builds up in you because you grow up thinking you’re different. And you are different, but that’s incredible and you should be proud and accepting of yourself and of others no matter who they are. Oh God, this is such a long answer, but I guess for me, Pride puts that all in perspective; it’s about putting a middle finger up to that shame. And I am incredibly proud to be gay. I think we both are.
Toby: Plus there’s loads of fit gay guys too.
Zak: Yeah, that too.
As proud Beyoncé fans, we have to ask you both the all-important question: favourite Beyoncé song?
Zak: Oooh, see now this is quite controversial.
Toby: Yes, it’s actually very controversial.
Zak : Because you see, mine is ‘Crazy in Love’, but the live version from the ‘I Am’ tour.
Toby: Yes, and mine in ‘Crazy in Love’, but from the ‘Beyoncé Experience’ tour.
Zak: However, last year in Edinburgh, we compromised and danced to both in our dressing-room before we’d go on stage.
Toby: The people we shared our small dressing-room with were very, very lucky and also grateful.
Toby, we’ve got to quickly talk about ‘Six’. You’re one of the co-writers behind the show that sees the six wives of Henry VIII finally meet each other. What inspired you to tell this story as a pop musical?
Toby: I mean, it’s sort of directly related to your previous question – my obsession with pop-stars and pop-concerts! I knew I wanted to write a show about a group of historical women, with original pop songs as the score, and something that played around the with the traditional forms of musical theatre. Then I was in a class at Uni and was suddenly like “WAIT WHAT IF IT’S THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII BUT THEY’RE A GIRL GROUP AND THE SHOW IS A POP CONCERT”. Next day I rang Lucy, and the rest is her-story.
The conceit of a pop concert is fun though, because it allows the cast to be absolute pop divas, riff their guts out, dance their heels off, and also interact with the audience and be hilarious. And the all-female cast and band are all completely and utterly sensational.
Zak: I’m not going to say I was disappointed that they didn’t immediately offer me the part of Catherine of Aragon. I was just surprised.
So, the ‘Hot Gay Time Machine’ has taken centre stage in London, Edinburgh, and Bristol. Where’s next?
Zak: Broadway, obviously.
Toby: Yes, or Wembley.
Zak: We could settle for the O2
Toby: No, Wembley.