When his friend, actress Kathy Burke, leant him book I Am Not Myself These Days to read, Tom Stuart never imagined it would spark a seven year journey to bring the gritty tale of New York’s underbelly to the stage.

“I just immediately fell in love with it about two chapters in and knew it would be an amazing one-man show,” says the Finsbury Park actor of the autobiography, which chronicles Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s emotionally brutal double life as a young advertising executive by day and drag queen Acquadisiac by night.

“I think it’s a really beautiful story and it has got a really important message. I just felt compelled to retell it and bring it to a different audience. It’s been a real labour of love.”

Such was his conviction that Tom, 34, spent years emailing back and forth with Josh working to make his dream a reality.

“I got in contact with him on MySpace, that’s how long ago it was, and he was very sweet, he answered immediately but he couldn’t do anything as every major American network owned the rights at some point.

“Every four months or so I would write to him to check but they were only available a year and half ago.”

The East Ham-raised performer did not rested on his laurels though and spent every spare hour, in between acting at The Globe and in films such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, transforming the book into his first ever script.

His one-man show, also titled I Am not Myself These Days, was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and Tom returned to east London last week to preview it at Stratford Circus, on the site that used to house the Theatre Royal Stratford East drama club where he cut his acting teeth.

“It was an amazing homecoming,” says Tom who will bring the show to Shoreditch Town Hall next week.

He first stepped onto the stage aged five at Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford, studied classical drama at Central School of Speech and Drama and met Kathy Burke on the television series Walking and Talking.

Tom’s life is dramatically different from Josh’s, he is also gay but says he believes the author’s story, which chronicles the breakdown of his relationship with his crack-addicted male escort boyfriend, will touch a nerve with anyone.

“I think it makes everyone feel a bit understood. Even though his circumstances are quite extreme and probably beyond most of our experiences, because he’s so honest about them and so human everyone can relate to him. “We have all loved and lost and have struggled with our identity or will at some point in our lives.”

Tom was going through a ‘horrific break-up’ when he read the book and says: “There’s more that connects us all as humans than divides us. If you get into someone’s head and heart you realise we are all the same really.”

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He also related to Josh’s unending optimism and the idea of not really knowing who he was.

“I think I probably had about 30 different versions of myself depending on who I was with at the time, now I’m 34 I have probably whittled it down to four or five versions of me.

“That’s something he talks about a lot in the book, trying to please people all the time and changing who you are so you can please the person you are talking to.”

Tom say it was a nerve-wracking moment when he finally sent Josh ‘his version of his life’ for approval but the author has been incredibly supportive throughout and is flying over from America to see the show in Shoreditch.

“That’s going to be a bit mad, but I can’t wait, “says Tom who spent time in Soho and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to research the role and spends two hours each night transforming himself in Acquadisiac.

“I have been living inside his head for seven years so to meet him will be really special.

“I’ll be playing him and looking at him looking at me playing him. It will be a bit mad.”

He adds: “It’s amazing having worked on it for so long to be in front of an audience and see their reaction and them enjoying it, it’s like nothing I have ever know and such a privilege.

“Primarily I want them to have a good time and to be able to reflect on their own lives a bit.

“I think everyone will see a bit of themselves in Josh.”

Shoreditch Town Hall,Old Street, EC1V 9LT, March 1 to 12. Details: 020 7739 6176, shoreditchtownhall.com