Why don’t we see more working-class stories onstage? How do you balance writing with a day job in theatre marketing? We caught up with playwright Tom Lodge as his new two-hander Like You Hate Me readies for its premiere at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre care of Fight or Flight Theatre company. Time to get booking!
Like You Hate Me runs at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town from 23 April to 4 May 2019, with a press night on 25 April.
This is not a play about love.
It’s about loving/losing yourself/someone else.
It’s about how much you give to another person and how much you can’t ever get back.
Addressing the loss, development, and discovery of one’s identity through an ongoing and ever-changing life-long relationship, Tom Lodge‘s new play Like You Hate Me is a deeply honest reflection on life and love in all forms.
The Fight or Flight premiere production is directed by Jess Barton and stars Acushla-Tara Kupe and Aimee Kember.
Talking to… Tom Lodge
Tom Lodge is a working-class writer and theatremaker from North Yorkshire, now based in London. Tom’s formally bold and politically-engaged work has been performed at Theatre503, Sheffield Theatres, and the Bunker Theatre. Tom has completed writers’ programmes with HighTide, the Royal Court, and Soho Theatre. Like You Hate Me was selected as part of the Longlist for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2017. By day, Tom also works in one of the West End’s biggest theatre marketing agencies.
What was your inspiration for Like You Hate Me?
I finished writing Like You Hate Me in 2017 and put it in a drawer for a while to work on other things as there was something about it that didn’t really click for me. It was only when I heard that Fight or Flight were looking for scripts that I dug it out and realised what it was that I was trying to do with the play. I think plays are like selection boxes of a writer’s anxieties, and so often we come back to the same things – family, love, loss – so it was a shock to see how much of this was already in the play, and a total joy to rework it so that these came out more.
Do you think working-class voices are under-represented onstage?
Absolutely, and I think it’s only going to get worse. A big part of why this is is the assumed need to relocate to London to make this career work – which is absolutely not the case and I wish we’d all stop perpetuating it – which is only possible if you have some financial support behind you, or if you’re lucky enough to get a nicely paid job that leaves you with little time to write in the first place.
Your other choices are limited to staging the play off your own back and not paying your mates, or just waiting to be noticed, neither of which are really sustainable unless you’re prepared to piss people off or you have the money to continue living in London. I’m completely thrilled that Fight or Flight are able to offer opportunities to emerging writers to create exciting and interesting work.
How have various writing programmes helped you as a writer?
What I think is really useful about workshops and programmes like those is that they expose you to other ways of working, from the people who lead them to the people who are on the course with you. They demystify the craft, and allow you to see that, actually, all your plays are within you already, so you don’t need to read a thousand books on structure because the essential things about telling a story are hardwired into you from watching telly or theatre.
Why did you want to work with Fight or Flight on this piece?
I met Fight or Flight co-founders Jess Barton and Ross Kernahan last year, and we talked for what felt like ten minutes but was probably closer to two hours. It was so joyful to meet two people who spoke with such passion and clarity about the kind of work they want to make. And it was totally in line with the kind of thing I’m interested in. A match made in heaven (the café in the Southbank Centre)!
Is your day job in theatre marketing helpful to you as a writer?
It’s super helpful in that you’re seeing a lot for work, which is incredibly useful. You can look at a piece and say ‘yeah I definitely don’t want to make that’, so it sort of refines your craft without you really having to do very much. It’s also quite difficult in that it can sort of push your own ideas out of your brain because you’re just too busy thinking about someone else’s show all day.
How much do you think the West End & fringe are connected?
I think the whole ecology feeds off and supports one another – there’s a lot of writers and directors who I’m really privileged to have watched come up through the fringe in my time in London. It’s important that the two don’t forget that the other exists.
What else have you seen recently that you’d recommend?
I’ve been a bit quiet on theatre recently, but I cried buckets at Standing at the Sky’s Edge at Sheffield Crucible. I’m a huge fan of Richard Hawley, and I think what Chris Bush and the team have done is completely remarkable so the show totally deserves a later life, even if it’s only so I can see it once a week for the rest of time.
I also really loved English Touring Theatre’s production of Equus. The whole team and cast managed to take a play that’s knocking on for 50 years old and make it speak as clearly as if it’s sat next to you. I’ve read Peter Shaffer‘s script quite a few times – still, there were moments in the show that felt so new, but they are so totally there in the text.
Theatre aside, I really enjoyed the Diane Arbus / Kader Attia at the Southbank – there was so much stuff in there that I’m just going to nick for my next play (don’t tell anyone though).
Like You Hate Me runs from 23 April to 4 May 2019 at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre, 42-44 Gaisford St, London NW5 2ED, with performances (75 minutes) at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £10-15. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!