Our warmest congratulations to Lower Sixth pupil Tom who was shortlisted for a national playwriting project led by the RSC. The project, entitled ’37 Plays,’ tells stories about modern life in celebration of the 400-year anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio. From over 2000 entries, Tom’s made it through to the final 71, a truly remarkable achievement.
What’s your play about and what inspired you to write it?
For the competition, we were given the subject of what life is like in the UK today. From that brief, I started by writing about 80 pages on any gossip I could think of. I took any gossip I thought might have been absolutely hilarious, I exaggerated it to the point where it was totally and utterly ridiculous, and I drew on that when writing. I also brought in elements of what it’s like to be a teenager, how confusing everything can get, and how confusing social life is nowadays. The finished product is a bit like Fleabag. There’s a character who breaks the fourth wall a lot and makes sarcastic jokes. The play covers serious topics but in a light-hearted way. My inspiration comes from both my own life experiences and from those of my friends. My characters are inspired by the real people in my life, but only in a very loose way. I tried to incorporate real life conversations to make my characters’ responses to things which happen as realistic as possible. If there was a hard hitting moment, I would think about how my friends would have reacted and keep this in mind when deciding how that character would react. It gives my characters a little bit of realism, but I cannot emphasise enough that the play is very much fictitious.
how have your peers reacted to this brilliant news?
They’ve been so happy for me! Some of them were very involved in the process, helping with proofreading and that sort of thing. When I got the news, I ran round the house yelling! My friends are very proud of me and I really appreciate their support.
How has studying drama at school helped inform your work?
I do Theatre Studies for A Level and the things I’ve learned have helped a lot. We do devised pieces in lessons and write our own work. It’s something I’m familiar with and do with my LAMDA teacher as well. Outside of lessons, the Drama teachers have proofread my work with me and helped me along. They’ve been very supportive throughout the process.
have you read or watched many shakespeare plays?
Yes I’ve watched lots! My go-to piece for performing is Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but my favourite Shakespeare play is Hamlet.
has Shakespeare influenced your own writing?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a lot of gossip going on where the characters talk about who’s in a couple with who and that sort of thing. My play definitely reflects that element of Shakespeare’s writing. My work is less abut metaphors and hidden meanings and more straightforward and to the point, but that’s just to make it relatable to a modern audience. Shakespeare has a clever way of starting with comedy and then making a more serious point, and that’s quite similar to what I try to do. In the beginning, there’s a comedic opening monologue with a lot of playfulness between the main character and the audience, but then at the end when it reaches its conclusion, there’s a moment of reflection about the silliness of life these days. The other Drama students in school also inspire me. Because I board, I get to hear them perform a lot, in particular the current Upper Sixth. They have a really good relationship with the Lower Sixth and I’ve picked up on little monologues and things they’ve done and those have been a source of inspiration.
Tom’s LAMDA Tutor, Eloise McCall, shared her thoughts on his fantastic accomplishment:
What Tom has achieved is quite extraordinary. Over 2000 plays were submitted and for Tom to be shortlisted to the final 71, with his first ever play, is remarkable. Tom writes with a maturity and clarity that is moving and compelling. He’s passionate about shining a spotlight on those stories we don’t often hear and ensures he stays true to himself, unapologetically. If he’s achieved this with his first ever play, it’s incredibly exciting to see what the future holds for Tom!