The writer spoke to Emma Clarendon about his play Time and Tide which play at the Park Theatre until 29 February 2020.
Hi James, could you explain a bit more about what Time and Tide is about?
Time and Tide is a laugh-out-loud LGBTQ themed comedy drama about the lives and loves of the staff of a crumbling caff on the end of Cromer Pier which might have to be sold as it’s losing money and custom to newly arrived chain coffee shops in the town. The play stars Wendy Nottingham (Peaky Blinders, Mr Selfridge, Vera Drake) as May,
Paul Easom (Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s The Girls) as Ken, Josh Barrow (Silk Road) as Nemo and Elliot Liburd (Bismillah: The ISIS Tragicomedy) as Daz.
How did the idea for the play come about?
In 2016, I worked in Wells Deli Holt, a cafe in my home town in rural Norfolk. At that time in my life, I was trying to decide whether to stay in Norfolk and divide my time between cafe work and writing or whether to move to London and do much the same thing there. To try and work out what I wanted to do, I decided to write Time and Tide in which I explored my conflict through a character who had to decide whether to leave Norfolk for London. I named that character Nemo, so called because he felt like a big fish in a small pond.
Working in Wells Deli Holt, I became aware of how independent businesses in Norfolk are losing trade due to the arrival of chain shops in their towns and the fact that many coastal places are empty for most of the year due to Norfolk’s holiday home culture. I wrote Time and Tide as I wanted to assert the problems faced by independent businesses in my county. I decided that Nemo would work in an independent cafe in Cromer. The owner of that cafe and her self-employed bread man would both be struggling because of the emergence of chain shops.
May and Ken were born. Growing up gay first in Lincolnshire as a child and then in Norfolk as a young adult, I felt like a ghost no one believed in as rural LGBTQ lives were rarely represented in fiction. I wrote Time and Tide as it’s the play I needed to see in the world: a play that asserts and celebrates rural queer lives in the hope of helping people like me feel less invisible and encouraging people unlike me to better understand and reassess how they perceive rural LGBTQ lives.
How does it feel knowing that Time and Tide is running at the Park Theatre?
I’ve been rewriting and developing Time and Tide for four years so I’m incredibly emotional that the play has finally found a home at Park Theatre. In 2018, director Rob Ellis and I workshopped the play with actors for a month at Park Theatre as part of their development scheme Script Accelerator so it feels fitting and moving to be staging the play there. Finsbury Park is currently undergoing gentrification and losing lots of its independent shops to chain shops so it feels very apt that Time and Tide is being staged at Park Theatre.
Is there anything in particular you hope audiences will take away from the play? I hope the audiences leave the play better understanding and reassessing how they perceive rural LGBTQ lives, East Anglia and the effects the gentrification of small towns has on those communities.
For those coming along what can they expect? Audiences can expect a laugh-out-loud LGBTQ themed comedy drama about friendship, community and a fear of change, all ideas which have never felt more urgent or relevant to assert, explore and celebrate onstage.
By Emma Clarendon
‘Time and Tide’ runs at Park Theatre, London from 5-29th February. Tickets can be booked here: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/time-and-tide.