PlayPen Writers Profile: Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth

Tom Wentworth has recently written for Sherman Cymru (Advanced Writers Programme) and Dirty Protest. He has a radio sitcom in development, has been mentored by Kaite O’Reilly and his poetry has been published widely on topics as diverse as carpets to Shropshire Butterflies. He also writes a column for Able Magazine and is a regular reviewer for Disability Arts Online. When not writing he lives in Cardiff and works for the BBC. His play for radio Sitting In follows Barry and Garry who are mounting a silent sit-in but what exactly are they protesting about and can they keep quiet about it?

 Tell me what your play is about?
‘Sitting In’ is a radio sitcom about two wannabee protestors Barry and Gary. They both work as Market Researchers but after Barry achieves fame during an impromptu protest to save the local swimming pool, by posing on an inflatable banana, they decide to become professional protestors. But are they really cut out for the job?

How did you get the idea?
I was writing this at the time when Occupy was all over the headlines, although I’d wanted to write about potestors for a long time and have had several failed attempts at writing very dramatic pieces about them. But then I wondered if they idea might work better as a comedy and so, prompted by the encouragement of radio producer Liz Anstee, I began to write Sitting In.

What was your favourite thing about writing the play?
Everything! This piece has been through a great many drafts and a great many ideas have been thrown at it but throughtout this the characters of Barry and Gary have always been there in mind. They really have been like friends to me over the last year!

What do you think were the challenges of writing this play?
Keeping the action in one physical space. This is a decision that I made early on when planning the series – that each episode would take place in one totally different environment, i.e. forming the ‘protest’ for that week. Also, writing jokes is hard and tiring so I really hope you find at least some of it funny!

What were the challenges of writing a one-act play?
I find the form extremely liberating. I like the time constraint of having to tell something succinctly. Of course there are times when I’d love not to have to cut my favourite joke because of time but afterwards you realise it really was for the best.

Playpen was about writing without rules and limitations?
For me this gives me a unique chance to hear my words out loud in front of an audience before it goes into a recording studio, with a subject matter I wouldn’t have been able to showcase this work.

How did you create the characters?
This was the strangest thing, Barry and Gary both appeared almost immediately in my mind. I later wrote quite detailed life portraits for them (most of which I will never use) but because they are series characters I needed them to have a life outside of the small section of life we see. Also, because they are slightly larger than life and ‘cartoonish’ they have been enormous fun to play with on the page – and I’m not done yet!

What writing tips would you offer to someone interested in writing for theatre?
Don’t follow my example of writing a radio piece! See as much theatre as you can and read as many plays as possible too. Then write, write, write!

Tom Wentworth’s play will be performed on Friday 1st February. Information on booking tickets is available here

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