Words By Susan Ford
Tom Basden is an actor, comedian and writer. In 2007 his one man Edinburgh show ‘Tom Basden Won’t Say Anything’ won him a Best Newcomer Edinburgh Comedy Award, and his film with Tim Key ‘The One and Only Herb McGwyer Plays Wallis Island’ won them a Best British Short Film Award. Tom is also one of the writers of successful sitcom ‘Fresh Meat’, and earlier in the year, he co-wrote and appeared in the award winning Ancient Rome based sitcom ‘Plebs’.
Tom Basden has penned a new play ‘Holes’ for this year’s Edinburgh Festival that is set to be a massive hit: set in a secret location, seeing this play is a definite must this August. As the excitement of the Festival kicks in, I was lucky enough to interview the awesome Tom Basden…
SF: Hello Tom Basden, how are you?
TB: Yeah, I’m fine thanks.
SF: I hear you are in China just now, how is that going?
TB: The country itself is going pretty well I think. There are the well documented problems with human rights violations, poisonous air and unsafe food, but the economy is as strong as an ox and a huge amount of national pride, as well as hope that the new leadership will finally take on pollution and governmental corruption. It’s also a good place to work from. The food’s very good and I don’t get any emails till 5pm or so because I’m 7 hours ahead. Also, once the play’s on, I won’t be able to access reviews. Every Edinburgh I’ve done, I’ve tried not to read reviews and failed. This time it’ll be easy- the Chinese government are playing into my hands.
SF: What can you tell me about your new play ‘Holes’?
TB: It’s about people stuck on a desert island trying to work out what’s going on in the world and what they should dedicate their lives to now that they’re marooned. It’s also about how quickly people can do terrible things to each other when their world falls apart. In some ways, it’s a small story about 4 people trying to make sense of a situation but it’s also meant to be about the sort of people we are now. It’s a comedy, but it gets pretty dark. There’s a fair bit of digging in it.
SF: Without giving too much away, how much can you reveal about the ‘secret location’?
TB: I’m not sure. Simon (Pearce, the producer) is quite keen that I don’t tell anyone where it is. It doesn’t take long to get there, and it’s really beautiful. Once you’ve been in Edinburgh for a week or so, it’s lovely to get out of the city a little, so I really recommend it to people who are just looking to get away from the royal mile. Even if they hate plays, they’ll like that bit.
SF: You’ve written very successful plays for the Fringe Festival before, how much have you drawn on past experiences when writing ‘Holes’?
TB: I guess this play has some things in common with Party, and I was looking to emulate that to some extent because it was one of the best experiences I had at Edinburgh. Otherwise, I’ve not thought about it too much. This play’s on a totally different scale to Party in terms of production and the size of the story. It’s a bit of a leap into the unknown for everyone, in a good way.
SF: There are some big names involved with the play, who is on the cast list and how did you pick them?
TB: I largely left that to Phillip Breen, the director, having given him some names of people that I thought would be amazing in the play. I’ve worked with Katy Wix and Matt Baynton before, so I was thrilled when I learnt that they were available and eager to do it. I didn’t think we had a chance of getting Daniel Rigby to do it, but he was a name we talked about very early on, because he’s so bloody watchable onstage and has the kind of presence that’s needed for Ian, the character he’s playing. Lastly, Bebe Cave, who’s playing Erin, the 16 year old stuck with these 3 work-mates, was a real find (although, actually she’d done loads of stuff, including Peter Morgan’s ‘the Audience’). It makes a huge difference to have the part of a 16 year old played by someone who is actually 16, and comes into rehearsals on the first day having just taken a GCSE (genuinely). We wanted to avoid casting someone much older and give them a kiddie haircut, because it wouldn’t have rung true onstage; luckily we didn’t need to.
SF: As a writer of ‘Fresh Meat’ and more recently ‘Plebs’, how much of your TV-based writing will you bring to the stage?
TB: Not much I wouldn’t have thought. There are no commercial breaks in it or anything.
SF: Are you currently working on anything presently on the lead up to the Edinburgh Festival?
TB: I’m writing the second series of ‘Plebs’ with Sam Leifer and working on a TV pilot of Party for later in the year. And I’m trying to learn mandarin, which is both fun and an absolute nightmare.
SF: What other acts/shows do you recommend for this year’s Festival?
TB: Tim Key, Liam Williams, DOD, anything and everything Kitson’s doing. In general, I’d say it’s worth seeing people who won’t do the same material on TV panels shows the year after. Will Adamsdale doing a work in progress show, I’m considering flying back just to see that.
Tickets and more information can be found at https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/holes-by-tom-basden
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