Nathan Queeley-Dennis talks … Debut Play ‘Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz’

Nathan Queeley-Dennis’ Bruntwood Prize-winning play ‘Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz’ shares a perspective on Black masculinity using old-school vibes and Beyoncé lyrics.

Showing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival Nathan tells us how the play came to be …

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Nathan Queeley-Dennis, I’m an actor and writer from Birmingham. My dad’s side of the family are Jamaican and my mums is from St Kitts and Nevis but I was born and raised in Birmingham. 

Describe your life right now in a word or one sentence …

Busy and overwhelming but ultimately fulfilling and liberating. 

Tell us about your debut play ‘Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz‘?

Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz is my debut play and winner of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2022. It’s about a young man navigating life but ultimately it’s a love story that looks at love in all of its forms—family, friends, relationships, work, self and life. 

Nathan Queeley-Dennis performing his debut play Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz – Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

And what it means to be a part of Edinburgh Fringe?

It’s great to be a part of the Fringe. It’s very hard to get work up there and I’m in a very privileged position where I have a team of people who worked extremely hard to get Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz here and so soon. I believe this is the quickest a Bruntwood Prize-winning play has been produced so I’m very thankful to those people and the audiences who have engaged with the production so far. 

How do you explore Black masculinity through the lyrics of Beyoncé’s songs?

I’d say the production doesn’t specifically tackle the idea of black masculinity but moreso shows a perspective on it. The character is very confident and charming but there’s an underlying vulnerability that shows through the cracks. Across the diaspora, we’re so diverse in our interests and there’s so much nuance to if you’re American or if you’re from Birmingham or if you’re from London. I just wanted to show another aspect of that. Without ruining too much story the idea of Beyoncé is sort of the driving factor for the character in the first part of the show. 

Tell us about the music, and the impact it has on the production.

In my head, Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz exists in a nostalgic but timeless place, and it holds a wide collection of Black influence on British culture and music is a huge part of that. I do believe the significance of music in the play is more of a reflection of the cultural significance of growing up in Birmingham. It’s a city so rich and diverse in its musical history I think it’s just subconsciously in my soul. There are references to Slow Jams, RnB, Techno, Garage, House, Rap and Sound System Culture. I’m sure there’s probably more I haven’t even realised.

Nathan Queeley-Dennis in Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz – Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

A love letter to Birmingham, Beyoncé lyrics, techno raves and the deeply intimate relationship between a man and his barber. How did the concept manifest itself and how has it felt for such a unique perspective to be so well received and even winning the 2022 Brentwood Prize for Playwriting?

When I started writing it I didn’t know where I was going to finish or what the story was really about. I just started creating a character and their life and the concepts within it sort of naturally flowed from that. For the show to be so well received and win the Bruntwood was a massive honour. Few people had read it before I sent it off so the fact multiple people did and it resonated was a real happy moment for me. 

What are the key components in setting up a show like Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz?

I can’t lie I’m a bit of a mess but it’s how I work best. There wasn’t much planning and when I started writing it I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it or where I wanted to take it but I think that was the best bit about it. I got to write and have freedom in my creative practice with no pressure just the joy and love for the work and craft. 

Highs, lows, solutions …

Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz was written over the course of 4-5 years. It started as a 3-minute monologue that I developed and write for a few hours, then, due to not really having resources, time or money I’d get on with everyday life and not get back to it again for 6 months. The biggest gap was probably from 2019 to late 2021 with the lockdowns I had no motivation to complete it. Then one day I decided to read it again. I matured a lot as a person from 2018 to early 2022 and immediately saw the wider picture for the story and got the rest of the play finished quite soon. I think I needed that time to grow; to ask questions of myself that helped to really round out the story. 

You recently starred in Josie Rourke’s As You Like It and as the co-lead in the critically-acclaimed Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba. Tell us more …

Last year I had the pleasure of playing Orion in Black Love at the Kiln Theatre written and directed by Chinonyerem Odimba and performing as Silvius in Josie Rourke’s West End production of As You Like It. Both are very different shows and have very different characters. I’m super thankful for both experiences. To work with Chino and Josie, two people so well respected and so talented you learn a lot and grow from that. I like to think I get better as a performer with every new job and that’s always facilitated and made easier with amazing directors who have a great sense of humility and empathy. Also, with Chino being one of the best writers in the country I learnt so much about how a writer carries themselves and engages with other people who are working on their piece with openness, truth, clarity and a lot of heart.  I’m very grateful for those opportunities. 

Nathan Queeley-Dennis and Leah St Luce in Black Love. Photo: Marc Brenner

GETTING TO KNOW NATHAN QUEELEY-DENNIS

What’s your current plan B?

I think I realised early on in life I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I don’t really have a plan b to be honest. I’m sure I’ve got transferable skills but I wouldn’t be as fulfilled as I am when I’m in the arts. 

What’s made you Sad, Mad, Glad this week?

I’ve had a pleasant week so far so nothing too sad. I’m most mad about the weather it’s felt like March for the last 6 months. Glad is definitely the reception for the show. Lovely audience responses and we currently only have one review but it’s a 5-star review from Whatsonstage. 

What are you watching right now?

I’m watching Champion and Dreaming Whilst Black on BBC. Both are phenomenal TV shows. Highly recommend both if you haven’t seen them. I’ve also just finished the most recent season of Love Island

What are you reading right now?

The last thing I read was a show that’s also on in the same venue a beautiful play called Strategic Love Play by Miriam Battye.

What are you listening to right now?

An artist called Jaydonclover if you’re not familiar you should give her a search wherever you get your music from. 

The last thing you saw on stage?

In Edinburgh – Strategic Love Play. Before Edinburgh – Tambo & Bones.

What’s on your bucket list?

Honestly, right now I would like a holiday. 

Where’s your happy place?

If I’m with my people, family, close friends etc I’m happy. 

Celebrate someone else …

All the artists from Birmingham doing amazing things across various forms. Corey Weekes, Keiren Hamilton-Amos and Ameir Brown for their work acting, musically and writing on the BBC show Champion. Music Artist Jaydonclover too, again get to know. Loads more to mention as well. Also, any artist of colour taking work to the fringe. It’s not easy taking work to ultimately predominantly white audiences who sometimes don’t engage or connect out of ignorance but Nouveau Riche has done a beautiful job at building a community here for us all to link up, connect and have a good time. 

Celebrate yourself …

Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz has opened to a great reception and amazing reviews. It’s my debut as a writer and the playtext is available to buy online. It’s a big achievement for me and my family. 

Whose footsteps are you following in?

I like to think I’m on my own path but there are so many writers and writers/performers I look up to. 

What’s Next?

After Edinburgh and hopefully a holiday I’m back to the lab and doing some writing. I’m working on various projects on TV and Film and working on my second play. 

Where can we find you?

On social media, I’m @nqdworld on Twitter and Instagram. 

Where can we see you next?

I like to try and keep a low profile but that’s been a bit different this month as you need to put yourself out there but I have nothing lined up for after the fringe.  So if anyone needs an actor I’m available.


See Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz at 20:20 Roundabout @ Summerhall, 2nd-27th August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Find out more here.

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