The Sea has been through a four week rehearsal period and it opens today, we caught up with the second year philosophy student, serial playwright and director Tom Froy for a chat at the Lyceum Pub, a stone’s throw from Covent Garden.
Two Lasses (TL): Starting with an obvious one, what made you write this play, was it more a specific moment or instance that inspired you, or was it more of a slow realisation that there was another way of exploring loneliness in London?
Tom Froy (TF): Good Question! I remember starting writing this, I wrote it- I have a strict, or at least regular routine of writing with is that I start writing each play two weeks into rehearsals of the previous play. So my previous play was called Homo, which is about masculinity, really well timed, though it wasn’t planned, not that it was a good thing, but the whole Harvey Weinstein/masculinity conversation began at that time- anyway, two weeks into that I started writing this, and it was a year since I moved to London and I live in Holloway, like all generic students do, and I started going to Hackney and Walthamstow which is next door and I just like the landscape of Walthamstow and tottenham which is much more open, and there’s a little river called the Lee and I went there and I’m from the Fens in South-East England, and I just liked travelling from Seven Sisters road and Holloway road which is havoc,
TL: It’s really interesting that you’re talking about Tottenham because I used to live in Tottenham, so we should talk about gentrification if we’re going to talk about that area.
TF: I mean, I’m probably gentrifying Holloway as it is(!) When I say Tottenham, I don’t mean where people actually live, I mean the Walthamstow and Hackney marshes area next to it- which is probably dog-walker gentrified area too, but I don’t think I was trying to address gentrification because since I started putting on plays I’ve continually become less and less ambitious about the social topics that I want to make my voice heard on. My second play was about communication with quite a strong feminist twinge, although, arguably, it’s good for men to raise the voices of women- and I published a zine promoting female art etc. it’s also just another white dude rapping on about his views, which there’s quite a lot of. It tried to address feminism, mental health and masculinity and everything else that student writers try to address, so I got a broadly good response but a couple of people said shut up this is not your business- so I scaled down the addressing of social problems. And I wrote it because I moved to London a year and a half ago now and I was interested in the landscape of London and around here you have to look directly up to see the sky, which I think is odd. It’s quite a busy and overwhelming place
TL: When you said you were moving away from social issues, do you think that whatever you end up writing people will always impose issues onto your piece?
TF: I cast this play gender blind, and ended up picking two women, so that means some people will say ‘ah a feminist play’ and there’s a relationships, which means it’s ‘a play about sexuality’ I’m not denying that the audience will read into things- and I’m not saying that loneliness isn’t a social issue, but I’ve just tried not to make it the Tom Froy opinion of the world approach to a play.
TL: Do you feel like people impressions of ‘real Londoners’ have changed over time?
TF: I’m not a fan of the ‘real Londoner’ idea, I wouldn’t associate anyone with being a real Londoner. 55% of Londoners are from a minority ethnic background, so there’s a convenient paradox that the minority is a majority- so I don’t think there’s a real Londoner, I think you can love London but it will never love you back.
TL: Were there any moments in rehearsal that really stood out to you?
TF: The cast changed my mind quite a bit, just today I was talking to Sarah- we were saying that I don’t tell people what to do, which is something I really emphasised at the start of rehearsals- that I might be the director, it’s just because there has to be someone that is the director. The first piece of homework we did was to go through the script and highlight anything they didn’t like or didn’t feel comfortable saying or just inappropriate or inaccurate and then we went through that together, so what’s important to me is that we all have equal creative input in the room- because it’s just maths that three heads are better than one.
TL: And the same for your writing process?
TF: I just kind of tried to emphasize the overwhelming and enormous and loudness of London, I try to avoid using the word everyman because that’s just foolishly ambitious but I have tried to write a relatively simple enough play that people will relate to it. I think the main thing I tried to emphasise is the fear of missing out, which is really hard to avoid in London as you are always missing a hundred other events. My flat is on Seven Sisters road, which is exciting, on a good but it’s just overwhelmingly and too much on a bad day.
TL: I was wondering how the digitization of life has contributed to loneliness or is it more geographically London?
TF: All of them! I don’t want to say it’s a digitization thing, though it is, but it’s too much our parents complaining about us being on our phones and I don’t want to join that rage, but it is because if you live in Bromley or Dulwich and you didn’t have a phone you’d miss out on the event going on in Hoxton but when you have a phone and you’re constantly updated you can’t help but feel like you’re missing out on stuff. It’s also a London thing; it’s the hype, it’s supposed to be great… But I also think it’s a big city thing because I’m sure it’s true in Manchester or Birmingham because there’s just as much going on. You always feel like you should be doing something with your time. It’s an endless battle about what you choose to do.
Quick Fire Questions
-Do you have a place where you like to write?
-Can you describe the process in three words?
Quick, Cocky and with-a-pen
-Can you describe in three sentences max the highlight of your process?
I like the day before the dress rehearsal when the tech director comes in and the actors realise that the play all fits together.
-Why should people come and see The Sea?
Because it’s about London, and you like in London, so you’ll probably relate to some of it.