Talented Yorkshire playwright Tom Wells tells us a little about his hilarious new play The Kitchen Sink – ‘comic, poignant and utterly gripping… outstanding’ Evening Standard – that premiered this week at the new Bush Theatre. A play set entirely in the kitchen of an eccentric Yorkshire family, it’s about big dreams and small changes, and a healthy measure of chaos too!
In six words only, how would you describe your new play, The Kitchen Sink?
A family. A year. A sink.
What attracted you to writing a play about family life?
I think I just find my family quite funny. And lovely. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. So that’s what started it. And a lot of the comedy I love, things like The Royle Family and Home Time and Gavin and Stacey, really good, compassionate comedy, is centred around families, and it works because you see a bit of your own family in there, hopefully. Mostly though, I’d just moved to London and I was feeling a bit homesick. It all sort of added up.
The play is set in East Yorkshire, as was your first play – Me, As A Penguin – is it important for you to root your plays in a place you are familiar with, having grown up in the region?
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 Withernsea and I love Hull. They both feel like very particular places to me, with their own sets of stories to tell. Withernsea is a sort of fading seaside town, but it’s smaller than the others, the Scarboroughs and the Bridlingtons, sort of a seaside underdog. Once the train stopped going there it got a bit lost, I think. A bit eccentric. And it does sometimes feel like a bit of a dead end. But also, it’s very flat with the sea and this big big sky and it is the sort of place – I think, anyway – where you’ve got space to dream big dreams, and look out at the world and imagine a slightly different life for yourself. So it felt right to set The Kitchen Sink there really. And Hull is a bit like Derby and a bit like Coventry and a bit like Wolverhampton, a bit like a lot of places, sort of scruffy and funny and a bit of an anti-climax. But there’s definitely something special about it too. A ‘Hullness’. Me, As A Penguin felt like a story that could only happen in Hull. It felt like that to me anyway.
How would you describe your approach to writing plays, and where do you draw your inspiration from?
I just try to start writing and sort of go for it. Properly. It’s not much of an approach really. Drink tea. Eat biscuits. Panic. Then, once I’ve got to the end, spend a lot of time trying to make it better. Read it out loud. Do the voices. Show it to people I trust, who are always much better at knowing what to do than I am. Listen to Belle and Sebastian. Weep. That sort of thing.
Inspiration is lots of things: stories people tell you, stuff you hear on buses, letters from my Nan, knitting patterns, photographs by the Caravan Gallery, recipes, the three-minute pop song. Mostly, though, it’s just things that happen to you, or the people you love. You just have to colour it in a bit differently. Change the names.
What are your own ambitions for the future?
I’d like to keep writing plays.
Tom Wells’ new play – The Kitchen Sink – is currently running at the new Bush Theatre until 17th December 2011, click here to book tickets. NHB are proud to publish the playscript. To order your copy with free UK P&P click here and add ‘Blog Offer’ in the comments field at checkout (to ensure your discount is applied when the order is processed).