In part II of my interview with Tom Adams of Elephant and Castle, we talk all things theatre in the (relatively) quick fire round!
Who or what has inspired you most in theatre and why?
My friend Laura Mugridge. She is a theatre maker who has a similar background to me – so acting and a lot of stand up comedy – she fell out of love with stand up comedy, got back into acting again, but on her own terms, and with the Arts Council and using her own life as the basis for her art work. She’s great and we work on lots of projects together.
Do you have any hidden talents that may find their way into a future show?
Well, not really a hidden talent, but I’ve been keeping a diary for the last eighteen years so I’m thinking that the next show I do will be about my dad, who used to do kids’ parties and I used to help him, doing magic. (I’m editing the rest…there’ll be no spoilers in my interviews!)
Theatre etiquette debates: worthwhile or futile? Is there a line to draw?
Well, yeah, totally. People should all hand their mobile phones in at the fucking – pardon my language – door (laughs). I used to work as an usher at the Young Vic and all the school parties handed all their phones in to the duty manager. They were all put in a big bag and it was like come on, you’re going to the theatre to transport yourself to another place, respect everyone in the auditorium and the actors. You don’t need your phone, you can survive without it – soak up the atmosphere and enjoy it!
– and food?
Food? Yeah, I can’t stand that – at comedy gigs, it would always be a crap gig if people were eating their dinner at the same time, and you’d kind of think ‘oh, what’s the point?’ But in theatre, I don’t know, you shouldn’t let people have everything. I remember at the Vic, we’d have people put crisps or peanuts into a paper cup. I like that in the BFI, there’s no food allowed in there, just water, so maybe we should just have a blanket rule like that so it’s a bit more like a – a holy space.
I like it because generally they’re not terrible actors and yeah, there probably are slightly better actors out there who could do a better job and don’t get the work but I guess with my experience of working in theatres, they do get a lot of big stars in and I’d find it hilarious – I really enjoyed it.
Do you have a best ‘the show must go on’ story?
Yeah, my friend fell off a stage once, he fell off backwards and it was really funny –
– and painful?
Well, no, he was fine – it was an outdoor show and there was this rope along the back of the stage and he lost his balance and kind of did this backwards limbo and fell off the stage. It was hilarious and there were cheers and laughter – and he rushed back through the doors and up on stage again and you know, the whole audience were just in fits of laughter. I have never laughed so much on a stage – that was just great fun. All of my show-must-go-on experiences tend to be with this one particular company called Miracle Theatre who are renowned for their calamitous nights where things are joyous but things happen and it’s hilarious. So I’ve got stories like on the first night, we have literally no idea what the next scene is; we’re rehearsing the show in the week of the show and we have to run off stage and find out what scene is next, and it’s full on but that was a brilliant night because the audience were with us.
If you could bring change in terms of opportunities in theatre right now, what would it be? What does theatre need?
I’d really like to see the opportunity for more laboratories, you know, chances for things that don’t need a finished product; like Bunker, they were a big company and each venue, each theatre had a funding pot to invite artists in who they wanted to work with, just to try out new ideas – basically R & D. That would be really cool. Lillian (Henley, Tom’s wife and co-star in Elephant and Castle in case you haven’t read part I of Tom’s interview yet…) is working with The National Theatre on workshops where they just put together writers and composers and just seeing what happens, what fits. I just really like that, that appeals to me – that there doesn’t need to be a finished product at the end – it’s trying a new idea out really and all being well, you can find something that works. I feel like sometimes all the risk is on the artist to survive.
To bring it full circle, sell Elephant and Castle to readers in no more than one sentence!
It’s a totally unique show; the unique selling point of the show is that it’s a husband and wife exploring their relationship on stage and one of them is a slow wave sleep parasomniac.
Tom’s show, Elephant and Castle can next be found at The Theatre Royal, Margate (tickets here), Wilderness Festival in August and as part of an exciting showcase at Bitesize Festival. Don’t forget to check out Part I of Tom’s interview, to read all about Elephant and Castle!