10 questions for 10 years – Tom Wells

How many of us can say we’ve inspired some branded condoms?! Find out more as Tom Wells becomes the first person to answer 10 questions for 10 years

From Me, As A Penguin to The Kitchen Sink to Jumpers for Goalposts and much more besides, Tom Wells has perfected the art of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. His wry observations and relatable characterisations lead to an often profound beauty that makes him, for my money, one of our most important playwrights, LGBT+ or otherwise.

Review: Drip, Bush Theatre

Tom Wells and Matthew Robins’ sweetly wonderful one-man musical Drip returns to the Bush Theatre

“Eat some toast, then eat more toast
(I love toast)”

In events I can’t imagine being repeated anytime soon, I was the nominated ‘audience hunk’ for this performance of Drip., and far be it from me to review my own performance but never has a wind-chime been tinkled so beautifully… This kind of light-touch audience interaction is threaded throughout the show and really helps to set the mood of slightly bemused wonder.

Tom Wells’ Drip popped up briefly in the library at the Bush Theatre last year, played Edinburgh over the summer and returns to W12 in the studio where its idiosyncratic charms prove well suited. A one-man musical, we follow 15 year old Liam as he makes a presentation to his school assembly in an attempt to win the annual Project Prize and more importantly, win back his friend Caz, Continue reading “Review: Drip, Bush Theatre”

Review: Drip, Bush

“Dive, dive, dive right in
Dive, dive, dive, dive, dive right in…”

On the one hand, I think I’d like to see Tom Wells really surprise us with something completely different. But on the other, he does what he does so bloody well that I kinda never want him to stop. Drip sees him playing with form, as it is a one-man musical but thematically, we’re once again in the world he has explored so affectingly in plays such as Me As A Penguin, The Kitchen Sink and Jumpers for Goalposts

Our protagonist is Liam, a 15 year old from South Shields who has moved to Hull cos his mum is seeing a guy named Barry who lives there. Making fast friends with Caz, the ‘other queer student’ at school, he throws himself into helping her with the annual project prize presentation that she is so desperate to win. Only thing is, she’s planning Hull’s first synchronised swimming team and Liam can’t swim…  Continue reading “Review: Drip, Bush”

Review: Folk, Watford Palace

“Sing me something holy, something wholly inappropriate”

One day, Tom Wells will start writing about something other than misfits in the East Riding of Yorkshire but until he does, we’re still being blessed with minor-key gems like Folk (after Jumpers for Goalposts, The Kitchen Sink, and Me, As A Penguin), reaching the end of its tour here in this co-production between Birmingham Repertory Theatre , Hull Truck Theatre and Watford Palace Theatre.

From the front room of her Withernsea home, Irish nun Winnie has been subtly changing the world for those around her. Her sweary, spoon-playing ways have long been complemented by Stephen, a mournful musical middle-aged man who counts her as his only friend and when the teenage Kayleigh comes crashing into their lives, it is music that proves the force that slowly bonds them together. Continue reading “Review: Folk, Watford Palace”

Review: Dick Whittington, Lyric Hammersmith


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“Are you fond of cake?
‘Definitely, I’m northern’”

How come there haven’t been any pantomime reviews on here this year?
I’m not going to go to any pantos this year.
Oh yes you are.
Oh no I’m not. Well, maybe one or two. This one is written by Tom Wells after all.
He’s behind you.
No he isn’t, he was sat in the stalls last night though and we were in the circle.
DICK!
Pardon me,

(thigh slap) DICK!
Oh I see, the panto was Dick Whittington and that was the audience had to shout whenever Andy Rush came on stage, fnarr fnarr.
Keep it clean please, that’s my job. BAPS!
Yes, that was the dame’s name. Stewart Wright wasn’t half bad actually – his Beyoncé…Knowles joke is still making giggle at the thought of it.
Dick Whittington has a cat doesn’t he?
Yes. And some other friends – trainee fairy Bauble and a budding London mayoral candidate called Sooz
So not exactly traditional then?
No, but that in itself has become the new tradition at the Lyric Hammersmith and after something of a shaky beginning last year, Wells feels very much at home here. DICK!
Oh, let it go.
Actually no, they didn’t perform that despite going to the North Pole. There’s a good mix of new and classic pop though.
Did they have sweets?
Not for people in the circle.
Did it snow?
Not on people in the circle.
 
Did you enjoy being in the circle?
I did actually – safe from audience interaction and far away enough to get some real satisfaction from bellowing DICK! And BAPS! without traumatising too many children.
Would you recommend it?
I surely would. Freed from the baggage of star casting, you get the real sense of company camaraderie here bolstered by a cracking young supporting ensemble. There’s a genuine sense of real fun, a healthy dollop of barely-disguised smut, plenty of Wellsian touches to make it unmistakeably his work (truly, Hull becoming City of Culture in 2017 is the world’s gift to him), and there’s a Bon Jovi singalong.
DICK!
DICK! indeed.
Running time: 2 hour 20 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £2
Booking until 3rd January

Review: The Kitchen Sink, LAMDA

“I got us some chocolate body paint…we ended up having it on toast”

Just a quickie(ish) for this as a dicky tummy meant I had to leave at the interval but I wanted to make mention of the cast in case any of them end up super-famous. Tom Wells has quickly rocketed up the list of must-see playwrights in recent years, something kickstarted largely by the 2011 success of The Kitchen Sink (although Me As A Penguin was the first time I dipped in the Wells), and so it is little surprise to see drama schools like LAMDA getting in on the act. This production of The Kitchen Sink forms part of their showcase this year and in lieu of new Wells work, a trip down the Talgarth Road was organised.

And whilst I wish I could say I liked it, the first half never really managed to grab me. Stephen Unwin’s production here lacked the vital spark that brought Tamara Harvey’s for the Bush to such vivid life, plodding along a little too much rather than surfing the ripples and waves of everyday living. The subtleties of Wells’ writing and his inimitable voice of extraordinary ordinariness failed to really shine through here – although his observational gifts means there’s many a one-liner that lives in the memory, ripped jeans, couscous, Dolly Parton’s nipples…nothing is safe but crucially, everything feels authentic. Continue reading “Review: The Kitchen Sink, LAMDA”

Review: Unusual Unions, Royal Court

There’s something special about being allowed to take part in something unique and though Unusual Unions actually took place twice on the same day, it still counts as a one off in my book. Part of the Royal Court’s convention-busting The Big Idea stream of work, this was a collection of 5 short plays all responding to the ideas raised by Abi Morgan in her main house show The Mistress Contract, taking place in unexpected nooks and crannies of the theatre in wonderfully small groups.

From dressing rooms to stairwells, the space under the stage to meeting rooms with a view, it was a brilliant way of exploring a building which isn’t normally so open (Wilton’s Music Hall’s promenade version of Edmund fulfilled a similar purpose). And even if the subject matter seemed to veer off what one might have expected, given the sexual nature of Morgan’s play, it was still compelling stuff looking at the ways in which we connect (or not) with those around us.  Continue reading “Review: Unusual Unions, Royal Court”

Radio Review: Jonesy / Pixie Juice / The Mysterious Death of Jane Austen

I don’t think being gay is that bad. I’ve had three erotic dreams about The One Show’s Matt Baker and I’ve really enjoyed them.”

Tom Wells’ Jonesy is currently running as part of nabokov’s Symphony as part of the Vault Festival, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it pop up as a Radio 4 Afternoon Drama, all the more so as Wells has adapted to fit the new medium. It is clearly a work that has a special relationship with sound for the writer – on stage, it is part of a trio of plays presented as a gig, live music augmenting the dramatic experience and on radio, it becomes a foray into the world of sound effects. 

The original story follows academic and asthmatic Withernsea lad Jamie Jones as he tries to emulate the sporting underdog movies he loves so much by passing GCSE PE but it is now told by Jonesy himself from the confines of the BBC Radio Drama Sound Department where he has secured some work experience. So the storytelling becomes a little meta with its references but also surreally enhanced by the breadth of effects at his fingertips, some of them not entirely appropriate for the task in hand but all of them used most wittily.  Continue reading “Radio Review: Jonesy / Pixie Juice / The Mysterious Death of Jane Austen”

Review: Symphony, The Vaults

“I do enjoy a skimpy short”

Originally commissioned in 2012 when it played festivals like Latitude, nabokov’s Symphony is a great fit for the ethos of the Vault Festival taking place underneath Waterloo and this sparky revival proves to be one of the highlights of the programme so far. Three short plays by three of the UK’s most exciting playwrights which mix together spoken word and live music, the show treads a blurred line between theatre and gig and pulses with an exciting spirit.

The way that the three writers utilise Ed Gaughan’s music in their stories is quite different but always interesting. Jonesy by Tom Wells is a riff on sporting underdog movies, with an asthmatic student determined to prove himself in his GCSE PC class but ending up in the netball team when rugby turns out to be too rough. Iddon Jones makes a lovable lead and Wells’ quirky sense of humour shines through, not least when Jonesy’s personal theme song finally plays. Continue reading “Review: Symphony, The Vaults”