To get you ready for our April Shorts we’ve been talking to all the writers about their plays and working as a playwright.
Tom’s play Textual Relationship delves into the world of online dating, looking at a couple whose romance blossoms over email, but so much so, that real life can’t quite match up.
What prompted you to write Textual Relationship?
Nowadays we all spend a lot of time on social media, and we are effectively running a PR job on our own lives. I watched some tourists in Trafalgar Square who were looking really fed up, one of them got a camera out and they all hugged and smiled for the photo, then returned to their previous misery; it was at that moment that I realised that people are fabricating their online selves to appear more interesting. Many people have had the bizarre experience of a Facebook friend who is witty, warm and sharp on Facebook and anything but in real life. I wanted to explore the differences between online reality and real-world reality.
What do you think the audience will like about it?
The fun in the piece is the contrast between the characters’ online selves and their real life encounters. The audience have the chance to see how what they have in common at the start, tears them apart at the end, there’s a nice sense of circulatiry to it.
Communication is such a key part of any relationship, it should relate to most people in some way or another.
How do you hope the piece will develop through the rehearsal process and its performance in Descent?
I’m not sure, and that’s the interesting thing, if I knew how it was going to change, then I’d change it now. Any rehearsal is a period of discovery, about the play, the character, the themes and about the writing. I have often not realised what a play I have written is really about until it’s in rehearsal, so we’ll see whether this is about what I thought it was.
How did you get into writing?
As a bookish, socially-reclusive teenager, the local youth drama group was my saviour. I always enjoyed improvising and at 17 I ended up writing a hour long play for the group to perform as their annual production. I then did a drama degree at Hull University, followed by an MA in Playwriting at Birmingham University.
Which writers inspire you?
I love Ayckbourn’s 70s work, when he was really exploring the dark dynamics of families. Tennessee Williams is another favourite, as is Martin Mc Donagh – who writes cracking dialogue. I’m a sucker for the structure of Ibsen, the ideas of Shaw, the mystery of Pinter and the snide social critique of Coward. I have a real interest in writers who are ‘unfashionable’, because like most fashions they come back; think Rattigan, he was entirely ignored in my degree but now he’s flavour of the moment again – so I’m either old fashioned or ahead of the curve!
What’s your favourite play?
A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s just beautiful. Each character is so delicately drawn, a complexity of reactions and drives. The play just gets better and better with each reading, I think it’s the best play of the 20th Century and it manages to root itself in its time whilst also having that timeless quality of all great plays. Having said that. Picking one play seems such a sin, with other great plays like The Birthday Party, Waiting for Godot and you’ve gotta love Abigail’s Party!
Textual Relationship will be performed as part of Descent Shorts on the 5th April at Rich Mix. More info
Tom studied playwriting at Birmingham University. His stage work includes ‘A Stevie Wonder Related Incident’ at the Bike Shed Theatre, ‘Lights, Camera, Walkies’ at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh and ‘Born to Be Mild’ at Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. He was runner up in BBC Comedy’s All Mixed Up competition and currently has a sit-com in development with the BBC.