Paul T. Davies has been a fan of playwright Tom Wells since seeing his breakthrough play Jumpers For Goalposts, (which is also being performed at the Fringe by Kite in the Storm at The Space on the Mile), and here Tom chats about his and Matthew Robins’ new musical, Drip, performing as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Hi Tom, I’m a massive fan of your work! In particular you celebrate working class lives and LGBTQ people and those who feel isolated. What was the inspiration behind Drip?
When I was writing the words for Drip the show’s director Jane Fallowfield and I ran a few workshops with young people around Hull, especially the Shout Group for young LGBTQ+ people at The Warren Project. Jane’s company Script Club has a really clear mission: Jane and the playwright do workshops in the writer’s home town (in my case, Hull) to find a story that matters to local young people. One of the things which came up often in the workshops we ran was the importance of pride – in yourself, in your values, in friendship and in where you’re from. It seemed to be something the young people were thinking about a lot, partly because they were just starting to figure out where they fitted in as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and partly because Hull was getting quite a lot of positive attention (which it maybe wasn’t quite used to) as the UK City of Culture last year.
At the same time I’d been working with the composer Matthew Robins, writing songs together for a play we did with Paines Plough called Broken Biscuits, and learning about writing musicals together as part of the NT Studio’s Musical Theatre Group. I mentioned to Jane that me and Matthew would like to have a go at writing a musical together. She said we should go for it, and found a way for it to happen through Script Club.
How were the themes of the play brought out in rehearsals and how much input did you have after submitting the script?
The show has been a real team effort (I think probably they always are) with everyone’s contributions helping to shape it. Matthew and me were trying to write a proper musical, so Matthew’s music is just as important as the words in finding the shape of the piece, and we were given time at the NT Studio with Jane (who has always had a brilliant instinct and sensitivity to the story we’re telling) and our ace actor Andrew Finnigan to work together and include everyone’s thoughts and insights. We also wanted the audience to feel really included, and Russ our designer and Adam our lighting designer have thought of lovely, cheeky ways to do this which feel true to the spirit of Liam’s story and hopefully a little bit mischievous. Natalie went off round Hull to look for the best props and quietly found solutions to lots of our problems, and we wrote our stage manager Sarah into the show, so there hasn’t really been a point where we haven’t all been involved. The thing I love best about theatre is that it is genuinely collaborative – I think stuff’s always better when you’re part of a team.
Music is very important in your work. What’s the synchronised swimming play list?
I think because the show is full of Matthew’s original music, we didn’t want to mix that up with stuff that already exists. So there isn’t a synchronised swimming play list, but some of Matthew’s songs for other projects are on the internet in case you fancy a listen. This is one of my favourites.
What can audiences new to your work expect?
Drip is a one-man comedy musical, telling the story of a year in the life of a fifteen-year old gay lad in Hull. There’s a really twinkly central performance by Andrew Finnigan, wearing goggles, lots of songs, an underwater bit, the chance of some romance, and a bit where we try and put synchronised swimming on stage (wish us luck).
What does the future hold post festival? Can we see your work in London for example?
Drip is going to be at Hull Truck in Hull, the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, and then at the Bush Theatre in London over Christmas.
Finally, any tips for surviving the Fringe?
It’s the first time I’ve been, so I could do with some tips myself to be honest. Mostly I’m just hoping for the best.