Matthew Mitcham on his London stage debut, his dream role with John Waters and… er, crabs

Alex Ansdell and Matthew Mitcham appear in Strangers In Between
Alex Ansdell and Matthew Mitcham appear in Strangers In Between. (Photo: Paul de Dona)

Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, 35, has already secured his place in the history books. Winner of the 10-meter dash at the 2008 Beijing Games, he became the first gay man to win an Olympic gold medal.

However, his rise to the top was not smooth. He has spoken openly in recent years about his addiction issues when he was younger. He has been clean since January 2016. As of 2020, Mitcham is also a happily married man and now lives in London with British husband Luke Rutherford.

Competitive sporting careers are naturally short. Many may find it difficult to find a new purpose or career. Mitcham has decided to continue performing, but this time on stage. He has already taken part in cabaret shows in Australia and took part in the local version of Dancing with the stars. However, you can only catch him making his acting debut in London in the next few weeks.

Mitcham appears in Strangers in between (by Tommy Murphy, who also wrote the acclaimed book Hold the manwhich was made into a film in 2015), is set in the tiny Golden Goose pub theater in Camberwell.

Billed as a modern Australian classic, Strangers in between is perfect for Mitcham. It’s the story of Shane (Alex Ansell), a gay teenager who flees his rural town for the bright lights of Sydney. He begins a brief affair with Will (Mitcham) and befriends an older gay man, Peter (Stephen Connery-Brown). Mitcham also plays the role of Shane’s straight older brother.

Queerty caught up with Mitcham to talk acting, sexually transmitted diseases and life in London.

Matthew Mitcham and Alex Ansdell in Strangers In Between
Matthew Mitcham and Alex Ansdell in Strangers In Between. (Photo: Peter Davies)

Strangers in between examines how some gay men need to escape their upbringing to be their authentic selves. I threw myself into ____ to help me deal with my sexuality

To be honest, I probably threw myself into the party scene. It just helped to be around other queer people. At one point in time, and that was when I turned 18, I had definitely made the decision to be 100% open and honest with everyone I met. The party scene helped me spend time with other gay people, but it also set me on an unhealthy path.

Strangers in between premiered in 2005. It is still relevant today because

There are still queer children in rural communities who feel isolated. Homophobia still exists. Queer people still make pilgrimages from rural towns to big cities to find their tribe.

Alex Ansdell and Matthew Mitcham
Alex Ansdell and Matthew Mitcham (Photo: Paul de Dona)

Part of this show revolves around a character who contracts a sexually transmitted infection and seeks treatment. Most gay men can identify with this Because…

One of my first boyfriends, when I was 17 or 18, had to have the conversation with me and tell me that he thought he gave me crabs. He had bought lice shampoo and a comb and everything that went with it fine. Until he claimed he got the crabs from his cat, and that’s where I was less well about the whole thing. At best, he lied. The worst case scenario is actually pretty terrible!

Strangers in between is employed Sydney. What I miss most about the city is

The people. I still have a lot of friends in Sydney. And the lifestyle, I would say. The ability to go to the beach if you want when you live in such a big city, and so many different beaches. You can choose an ocean beach or a more secluded harbor beach. Summer in Sydney is simply amazing.

What I love about living in Londonand what I’m not that keen on

I love London’s proximity to the rest of the world. It feels most like home despite being so much closer to Europe and America. I’m not too keen on only five hours of daylight in the winter. Also, I don’t mind walking the dogs in the winter because the ground is frozen so my feet don’t get wet, but it’s the muddy pre- and post-winter period when you walk the dogs in the mud and rain .

I learned something from working on this project

That I’m really capable because it’s the first time I’ve managed a straight play. I’ve always done musical and cabaret things and this is the first time I’ve done real character work outside of acting training. To feel like I’ve done that successfully, and for the reviews to really reflect that, this play gave me a wonderful opportunity to not just figure out and portray one character, but to figure out and portray two characters: two very, very different ones Characters that are both equally nuanced. That was a really great challenge for me.

Stephen Connery Brown, Matthew Mitcham and Alex Ansdell
Stephen Connery-Brown, Matthew Mitcham and Alex Ansdell appear together in Strangers In Between (Photo: Nick Brittain)

The gayest thing about me is

How much I enjoy gay sex!

A director or storyteller I would like to work with is

The first person that comes to mind is John Waters. I just saw that he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so he was at the top of my mind.

[Queerty informs Mitcham that Waters will soon shoot his first movie in 20 years, and he should lobby for a part.]

Oh brilliant! Let’s go. I wouldn’t mind playing something a little more twisted.

The hardest part about transitioning from a sports career to acting is

The reviews that keep calling me an Olympic swimmer! [Mitcham was a diver].

Athletics and drama have some similarities. I must be dedicated to my craft and practice to perfection

That’s why I got this role. Obviously I auditioned well, but there were other candidates they were considering, and one of the arguments for me was, “Of all these candidates, who has a proven track record of doing everything right?”

And I didn’t stop thinking about these characters or these roles even after I left the room. I passed along ideas from the director Adam [Spreadbury-Maher], the whole time. He lets me do whatever I want with these characters because he says my instincts are good. We get to look at the nuances and conflicting motivations behind every single line, every choice, and everything these characters say. I think that works to my advantage, that work ethic that I bought from the sport that I carried over into this piece.

Strangers in between plays on Golden Goose Theater until October 7th.

Charles Jones

Charles Jones is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Charles Jones joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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