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Nail Polish Cast Interviews

Fruity Theatre was founded by Grace Enever and Aisa Nerva-Culley in 2022, together they wanted to create a safe space to create theatre that highlights the queer experience after both separately going through homophobic abuse on London transport.

Their latest show Nail Polish is a new piece of writing, celebrating the beauty and importance of queer community, whilst highlighting queer experiences and the effects of living in a society with a constant pressure to “fit in”. Nail Polish showcases many aspects of life as a young person belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, in a realistic multi-dimensional fashion that audiences can’t help being attached to. Exploring relationships, stigmas, love and most importantly, everything queer. The production is written by Daisy Parker and Aaron Govey.

Photo by Jaime Prada

Ahead of the show running at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in London from 31st October until 4th November, I caught up with Aisa Nerva-Culley (he/they), Beau Brett (she/her), Aaron Govey (he/him), Ryley Pennycard (they/he), Gray Enever (she/he/they) and Jack Birkinshaw (he/him) to discuss the show.

What can you tell me about your character?
Aisa Nerva-Culley who plays Sam: I play Sam in Nail Polish. Sam is a very confident, happy and loving character who is very comfortable within their sexuality and identity. Sam is a very sensitive person and can take on a lot of surrounding emotions. But he is a fighter and he’s strong and stands up for what he believes in.
Beau Brett who plays Sophie: Sophie is a complex character. She is often the support system for her partner, Becky when things in her life become unsettled but she also brings joy and laughter to Becky and all the others.
Aaron Govey who plays Mitchell: Mitchell is Becky’s brother and is generally a very confused young man. We catch him in a phase of his life where he is questioning everything. He is also growing up in a very unaccepting and controlling household so he really appreciates his chosen family.
Ryley Pennycard who plays Austin: Austin is the best friend of Joe and introduced Sam and Joe to each other back when they were in school, which was where they also came out as non-binary. They’re sarcastic and outgoing and often provide comedic relief within the group. Despite their confidence and charisma, they are battling with a feeling of loneliness, broken up with twice in the space of a year - they’re questioning if love is something they ever will experience and are left wondering where they fit in within the friend group.
Gray Enever who plays Becky: Becky is the life of the party, she always wants everyone to be having the best time! This worry does bring some stress but luckily her partner Sophie can always bring her back down to Earth. Nothing is greater than Becky’s life for Sophie as they have stuck by each other through the toughest of times.
Jack Birkinshaw who plays Joe: I play Joe. Joe is in a relationship with Sam who unlike himself is very out and open. Because of this difference, it can cause some insecurity in Joe and in their relationship.

What attracted you to want to be a part of the show?
Aisa: Along with Grey, we co-founded Fruity Theatre because we wanted to create a safe space where we could highlight the queer experience and tell stories that we felt were missing in theatre. Nail polish is based on real experiences both of us have separately gone through. We wanted to use this as a way to express how we felt and shed light on the fact that homophobic attacks still happen all the time.
Gray: I had a difficult experience myself on the train with a homophobic incident and I struggled to navigate the aftermath of that experience. This play really helped me to deal with this situation and find the support I need in my community.
Beau: The opportunity to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was definitely high up on the list of reasons for me to become a part of Fruity Theatre. I was also really excited to work with like-minded people and explore a really important topic that is close to my heart.
Ryley: Joining ‘Nail Polish’ was an interesting process for me. When Grayson initially approached me regarding auditions I was really hesitant to join, however, the more I learned about the story the greater my interest grew. It was about a week, or two filled with conversations with Grayson and Aisa when I finally agreed that I would audition. Looking back, I can honestly say that while I knew the story was important and resonated with me as a queer person, it was the people within the company that attracted me to the show. I’d been privileged enough to work alongside many of the team previously and knew not only just how talented they all were but also, I knew that the environment would be nothing but supportive, collaborative and welcoming. It was knowing that everyone involved in ‘Nail Polish’ was passionate about our message, but also dedicated to ensuring our space was safe and filled with love and support that resulted in me joining their team.

How important a story is this one for you to tell?
Gray: The play was inspired by my experience, such as I previously mentioned, I found some people in my life didn’t believe stuff like this still happens but it does. So many young queer people in this country deserve to see a play like this to show that even through the tough times, you can find joy in those around you.
Aaron: Originally, this story was going to wallow in the sadness and trauma but we changed it to be more positive. Obviously, the story revolves around a traumatic event, but we wanted to show the beautiful, colourful and happy side of being queer. Positive representation is extremely important right now.
Beau: I really wanted to help highlight the event that takes place in the play is something that still happens on a day to day basis to the people I adore. I hope that this play brings an awareness of this type of thing to those that may not have experienced it themselves or know someone that has been through it.
Ryley: For me ‘Nail Polish’ is incredibly poignant and is a story that has so many crossovers with my own experiences. Growing up and beginning to explore sexuality and gender identity there wasn’t a lot of positive representation. In ‘queer’ films, the gays seemed to always face some sort of tragedy, the wlw relationships had to be a secret, and nonbinary representation was non-existent. Hate Crimes, and self-discovery were some of the biggest things that impacted my growth as a person and an artist and so being able to give positive representation of queer characters and relationships is so important. I also feel that current views held by many in power, especially surrounding the Trans community, make the world seem so volatile and filled with hate. It’s so easy to forget when coming under these sorts of attacks that you’re not alone and there are people who love you and will fight for you. Everytime we perform it feels to me like a protest in the most beautiful and peaceful of ways, it’s standing together as different parts of the community and showing love when we’re faced with hate and a reminder that there is a community for everyone despite what may be occurring within the world.
Jack: I think the story is important as it shows people’s experiences in life and audiences from different backgrounds will hopefully have more understanding of other people’s experiences.
Aisa: As we were going through the process of creating Nail Polish It became very apparent when talking to other queer people, that so many of them shared the same experiences. To know that our friends and community constantly receive homophobic abuse in public or on public transport and the fact it is hardly talked about made us even more passionate about telling this story and showing people they aren’t alone.

How do you reflect on the journey of playing at the Fringe and how do you think that helped shape the show?
Aisa: For me, it has been one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had creating a show. Throughout the whole process, we’ve been able to build a family, the production team, the cast and the creatives, we’ve been able to grow together and go through this process as a team. Then taking a story that we are all so passionate about up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and being welcomed with open arms by not only the queer community, but everyone who watched it, really made an impact and showed us how important the story is. This gave us such a drive to do this show justice. People from all over the world come to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and it shows us that our community is global. When you attack one part of our community, you attack us all.
Beau: I loved Edinburgh. You can’t put into words how much it brings you together as a company. We all worked so closely, living together, flyering together and performing together and I think this is really obvious when you see our chemistry on and off stage. 
Aaron: We learnt a lot! It was an amazing experience that taught us how to promote our show, network with other theatre folk and tell a complete story in 50 minutes.
Ryley: Performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was such an incredible experience and one I'll never forget. Leading up to Fringe we were rehearsing pretty much every day, changing the order of scenes and practicing transitions to make our show as clean as possible. These rehearsals made complex transitions seem like muscle memory and helped keep the show utterly seamless. When we were up in Edinburgh we were all living together and it honestly felt like one big family - even when we weren’t rehearsing or flyering down the royal mile. Often we ate dinner as a collective and we were sharing experiences and stories that I think helped the dynamic of the cast on stage. We didn’t have to pretend to be friends with one another, we had genuine bonds and love for one another. While we were up at the fringe we’d spend our mornings before the show flyering in our ‘I’m Gay Stu’ t-shirts, having that sense of pride not only in our show but of our identities that seemed to cement the portrayal of our characters on stage. About midway through our run as we were making our way to the theatre to warm up a guy launched homophobic slurs at me. I was completely shocked because the environment had been nothing but welcoming until that point. Despite it being a passing interaction it really knocked my confidence, when I arrived at the theatre I told the rest of the cast and crew what had happened. Despite everyone’s shock we really came together, they were all so supportive and Gray actually said that this is why we need to do this show, because things like this still happen when we’re walking down the street and it’s not okay. I think that despite it being a horrible experience it is a fresh reminder of why we were performing and for me personally instead of making me shy away from the show and the stories we share, it inspired me to continue doing it.
Gray: This was my second time at the fringe festival but with this play I was able to see the personal impact this story had on our audience. So many people shared their own personal experiences with similar situations and praised us for our portrayal. This highlighted the importance of what we were doing to the entire company and how crucial it is to keep sharing this story.

Photo by Jaime Prada

What keeps you inspired as a creative?
Beau: The people I work with really inspire me all the time. The conversations we have just continue to spark new ideas and new avenues to explore.
Aaron: This might sound pretentious, but, for me, it’s people. I love watching them and studying how people interact with each other. I’m also heavily inspired by other writers in the queer field.
Gray: I’m a collaborative person and I love to work with other creatives. Having the opportunity to work with others to create something meaningful and beautiful is what keeps me inspired.
Jack: As a creative I’m inspired by good writing and characters. As an actor it’s good when a writer gives you fully fleshed out characters and as an actor you know your character straight from the text. Then there’s less guess work.
Ryley: Hearing and reading what audiences take away from the show really inspires me to continue my work as a creative. After shows in Edinburgh, we were often approached by audience members who wanted to share their stories, to know that this message that we’re trying to put in the world is being heard and to know that other queer people have and continue to experience these issues. Also, the world for Queer people - especially at this point in time the trans community, is hostile but seeing these communities stand up and be seen - or allies standing alongside trans and queer folks is such a powerful takeaway. And if we can take that fight, that emotion and put it into art - then maybe just maybe, the closeted teenager or twenty-something in the audience might just realise that they aren’t alone despite the government, despite the never-ending fight, that they know they have a community and a chosen family somewhere out there, and that they have a place in a world where they belong and they’re loved.

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the show?
Aisa: I hope people feel the love, because that’s what the story is based on. The support of community and the love of community. This is what Nail Polish has been built on, the beautiful characters the writers have created, the dedication the directors have put into building this show, the love the whole cast and company have for each other, and how passionate we are about showing people that we are here, and we’re not going anywhere.
Beau: I really hope that the audience is able to connect with one of the characters in some way. They highlight the best qualities in all of us whilst telling a beautiful and real story.
Aaron: I want them to feel all the feelings! I hope they leave the show being aware of the homophobia we still face today. Homophobia is not over. We are still treated differently. The current government is using our community as a scapegoat. Right now, we need people to be on our side.
Ryley: There’s so many things that I want an audience to take away from nail polish, and it’s hard to know where to start. At the heart of this show is the sense of community and family and so I hope that the audience leave knowing that they aren’t alone, and that despite everything going on in the world, they have people who love them and care for them. I also hope ‘Nail Polish’ encourages people to talk about these issues and their feelings, to voice their worries and concerns with loved ones and share their outrage when these events happen and also to listen. To take the time to sit and listen to other people’s stories, to take comfort in one another and not shy away from themselves.
Gray: I hope those who have had similar experiences feel represented and see that their community is out there with complete support. And for those who haven’t, they can see this is still happening and they should support those around them.
Jack: I hope the audience takes away an understanding that everyone is going through their own thing at any given time, and it doesn’t hurt to be kind, tolerant and understanding even if we don’t fully understand.

Nail Polish plays at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town, London from Tuesday 31st October until Saturday 4th November 2023. Tickets are available from

Photo by Jaime Prada

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