Tom needs to tell you something. But, he’s not very good with words so he’s going to play some music for you. Then he hopes that you’ll finally understand.
Hi Calum, thanks for talking to TNC, how are things going?
Very well thank you – we had our first preview at The Other Palace on Saturday and things went better than expected!
Are you looking forward to being at Underbelly this summer?
Underbelly have been wonderful to work – really engaged and supportive. I’m mostly looking forward to seeing ‘Oedipus’ by the former Toneelgroep at the International Festival. And Complicite’s work in progress performance of ‘The Happy Tragedy of Being Woke’.
What was your first fringe experience like?
I first went as a child with my family (my Dad is originally from Livingston, not far from Edinburgh). We all went to the Fringe Society shop and bought the archived Fringe posters from the years we were born. I still have mine hanging in my bedroom.
Are there any nerves ahead of your fringe run?
Strangely, no. We have an excellent creative team working on the show and the though our solo cast member, the musician/composer Ed Zanders, has never acted before he’s got an innate charm and real ease up on stage.
I’m sure lots of people won’t like it – but I’m quite looking forward to that.
Can you tell me a little bit about Piano_Play, what can we expect?
In 2017 a young male pianist had a piano delivered to College Green in Bristol – he said he wasn’t going to stop playing until his ex ‘heard him’. The local, then national, the press picked up on the story and the public response was divided. Some people thought he was an old school romantic, others thought he was a creep. In fact, YouGov published a poll asking the British public to vote on whether his actions were a) creepy, b) romantic, or c) don’t know.
Our show imagines that a young male pianist is putting on a show at the Edinburgh festival to win back his ex-boyfriend – it asks the audience to judge his actions in the same way the British public did back in 2017.
You can expect lots of classical piano, some laughs and a question at the end.
"...and I’m still being ambitious about what you can achieve in a Fringe theatre space, but this will certainly be a less intense experience."
What was it about this story that first interested you as a playwright?
I thought the divided response was interesting – the ‘grand gesture’ has a place in our history of romantic storytelling but it’s interesting to look at that with a revisionist perspective. And, I liked the idea of someone using music, rather than words, to express the complexities of their thoughts and feelings.
What has been the most challenging part of bringing this show to life?
The writing. I’m very lucky that I’ve had some really excellent dramaturgical advice along the way which has entirely changed the shape and structure of the show for the better.
How important is the collaborative nature of theatre-making?
It depends on what you’re working on. Sometimes it’s okay to turn up focus on your own job and know that everyone else is doing the same. Sometimes you build something together. It’s only as important as you want it to be.
How much does your background as an actor help your writing?
Loads. I’m hugely influenced by the people I’ve worked with. Not least Rob Icke, and his love of meta-theatre, and Paul Hunter (and everyone at Told By An Idiot) for his anarchic approach and the way he slams the funny and the sad right up against one another.
I play all the characters when I’m writing. So it helps for finding the rhythm of lines and exploring the peculiarities of characters speech.
Have you always had a passion for theatre?
Always. I used to go and watch my Grandad perform in Old Time Musical Hall shows and in Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas with his local Am-Dram society. I grew up in the West Midlands with the RSC not far from my doorstep so I went there as often as my parents would take me. Michael Boyd’s histories cycle was on there when I was 15 – you went in on a Thursday and left on a Sunday night. I was desperate to be involved after that.
I’m also indebted to Playbox Theatre, a youth theatre in Warwick, for giving me somewhere to go every weekend for ten years. They let me perform in shows, help backstage and even, briefly, programme their studio space! It’s got some fantastic alumnus: Josh McGuire, Sophie Turner, Leo Bill etc.
Has your style and approach to this show differed much since your previous show?
Yes. I’m still very interested in the form of something reflecting its content, and I’m still being ambitious about what you can achieve in a Fringe theatre space, but this will certainly be a less intense experience.
What 3 words best describe this show?
Bach, Britney, Bogus.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Piano_Play?
I don’t mind really.
I hope they get access to classical music in a way they may not have before. I hope they have a few laughs. And, I hope that they go for an early afternoon pint and argue about it.