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Meet the Playwright: Tom Wells

12 September 2017

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What is the play you are writing for Script Club in partnership with Boundless Theatre?

Drip is a musical comedy about two fifteen-year old friends – Caz, who sets up Hull’s first ever synchronised swimming team, and Liam, who can’t swim, but joins it anyway. It is about the value of just having a go at things, even if they don’t seem very do-able, and being fifteen and gay in Hull.

How did you come up with the idea for the play?

Sometimes in the night I wake up and write down really good ideas for plays and then, in the morning, they seem less good. That’s what happened with Drip. About two years ago I woke up in the night, really inspired, and wrote ‘Someone who does synchronised swimming, but just by herself.’  Next day, it sounded bad. But the idea sort of took hold a bit in my head, gradually got characters and a world around it, and started to seem like it might be alright. I chatted to Jane Fallowfield, the director, about it, and I’d started writing songs with Matthew Robins for other things, and realised we could maybe write some songs together for this. And if we did we’d have a sweet, soulful, funny musical about having a go at stuff with your mates (which is all we’re doing really), and being fifteen, and armbands. And fingers crossed it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought to begin with. Fingers crossed it’d be good.

“Young people have interesting stuff to say, that is honest and specific and not often heard.”

What was the process?

A big part of the process has been talking to young people in Hull about their experiences of growing up and fitting in (or not) and also learning to swim (or not). They’ve been really generous with their thoughts and experiences, and have properly helped to shape the story, filling the world with detail and spirit. Alongside this, I’ve written drafts of the play with lots of really thoughtful feedback from Jane, and me and Matthew have been working on songs together at the National Theatre Studio, with Andrew (who plays Liam) helping us out with performing, and Gabby and Jane doing all the funding forms. A proper team effort.

What is the biggest challenge in writing for young people?

Writing a young voice that feels authentic and current, and as funny and knowing and bright and complicated as the fifteen-year-olds we’ve got to know a bit in Hull feels like a challenge. But maybe that is just the challenge of writing characters of any age really – trying to be truthful.

How important is it to make theatre for young people?

I think it’s really important to listen to anyone with interesting stuff to say. Young people have interesting stuff to say, that is honest and specific and not often heard. I wish people would listen more. Hopefully theatre can be part of that.

What made you want to become a playwright?

Making a play is a bit magic. Everyone involved puts a bit of their heart into it, and then the audience sort of meet you halfway, and it becomes this special thing that only exists in that moment with that group of people – everyone’s made it together – telling stories that feel worth hearing, full of spirit and mischief. It can never be perfect or the same again, you can’t pin it down, but it’s magic.

And you get to drink tea a lot, which I love.

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