An Interview With Broken Biscuits Writer Tom Wells And Director James Grieve
Paines Plough's latest play Broken Biscuits arrives at The REP on 29 November, so what better way to fill the wait than with an interview with the writer Tom Wells, and director James Grieve, who reveal the inspiration behind the new play and their favourite biscuits!
(TW = Tom Wells / JG = James Grieve)
Where did the idea for Broken Biscuits come from?
TW: A few different things: the Pulp song Mis-Shapes, about not fitting in, has a line about broken biscuits; I wanted to have a go at writing some lyrics; and I thought it'd be nice to see the DIY spirit of a teenage band on-stage, when you don't worry about getting things perfect, you just have a go and see what happens.
Is it exciting writing about teenagers in their formative years?
TW: I like writing about people struggling with quite ordinary things, and maybe that happens quite a lot when you're a teenager. All the awkward, embarrassing, funny stuff - exams and Saturday jobs and parents and wearing bad clothes, listening to the wrong music, not having sex - it all gets mixed up with figuring out who you are a bit, where you fit in in the world and where you don't.
A lot of your writing is set in Hull and the North of England, is this that setting important to you?
TW: It's helpful to know the world you're writing about, I think, because then you can make it detailed, and be a bit mischievous with it, and hopefully not make too many mistakes. But also: I love Hull. It feels like a very particular place to me, with its own set of stories, sort of scruffy and funny and a bit of an anti-climax. It's got magic in it too. A 'Hullness'.
How are rehearsals going? What's it like rehearsing with a drum kit?
JG: We're having a huge amount of fun. Tom's characters are so funny and charming and loveable, it's a joy to hang out in Megan's shed with them all day every day. The actors - Faye, Andrew and Grace - are inventive, charismatic and naturally comedic so there's a lot of playfulness and laughter in the rehearsal room which makes for an enjoyable, galvanising and creative atmosphere. And it's a joy doing a play with music. We're trying to learn and do justice to Matthew's beautiful songs, and making a joyous racket along the way.
Can you talk us through the process of casting from open auditions / what were you looking for?
TW: We were looking for soulful actors with funny bones.
JG: There's lots of amazing acting talent around the UK but not everyone can afford to go to drama school or get an agent or move to London. So for six years now we've been hosting open auditions in an attempt to meet actors we might not otherwise have a chance to meet.
The three characters in Broken Biscuits are 16-years-old, so we figured open auditions were the best way to find the best young actors from across the country to play the parts. We held open auditions in London and Hull, and with our co-producers Live Theatre in Newcastle where we found local actor Andrew Reed from South Shields, and Faye Christall who had travelled from The Wirral to be there. We invited around 20 actors we met at open auditions to the recall round of castings before Faye and Andrew won the roles.
Who were your musical influences when you were teenagers? Did you form any bands in your friends' sheds?
TW: The people who were in bands at school were always much cooler than me. They'd walk into music lessons, pick up an out of tune guitar and play the first four bars of Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers. It wasn't very me - I was more into reading books and worrying. But I wish now I'd had a go. It's been lovely seeing it all come together a bit in rehearsals.
JG: I was an indie kid in the mid-90s. The Stone Roses, The Charlatans, The Boo Radleys, The Lighting Seeds, Oasis, The Bluetones, Shed Seven, Manic Street Preachers, Happy Mondays, Blur, Pulp, Primal Scream, Suede. Those halcyon days. I wanted to be the frontman of an indie band only marginally less than I wanted to play up front for Man Utd. I didn't quite manage either sadly.
TW: The bands I listened to when I was a teenager the most were Pulp, The Smiths and Belle and Sebastian. I still love them now.
And finally, what are your favourite biscuits?
JG: Chocolate Hobnobs.