Writer Tom Wells talks about his production ‘Big Big Sky’ playing at the Hampstead Theatre
With an increased emphasis on the natural world around us, on a local as well as global level, we’re at a crucial point in time in terms of conversations had about climate change, questioning how best to look after our home. Observing the beauty of his hometown Kilnsea, situated in East Yorkshire, writer Tom Wells explores his locality and its vulnerabilities, recognising a need for better care in Big Big Sky. Currently showing at the Hampstead Theatre, Tom tells us more about what to expect.
Hi Tom, your show Big Big Sky is currently showing at the Hampstead Theatre, how are you feeling?
I feel really proud of the play. I think everyone who’s worked on it has done a beautiful job, brought a bit of themselves to it, made it their own – a proper team effort. It’s been lovely to remember what it feels like to work together on something, grow it and shape it and try things out and get stuff wrong and get stuff right and make it better. And I feel a bit vulnerable, too, like you always do when you’re putting something new into the world and it’s got a little bit of your heart in. You just sort of cross your fingers it’ll be alright. Hope for the best.
Big Big Sky is set in your hometown of Kilnsea, situated in East Yorkshire. It explores the beauty of the local coastal landscape whilst highlighting the vulnerability of nature and the need for better care. What inspired you to explore this further and how have you found creating work based around your hometown?
I think writing about home is something that just happens. If you grow up somewhere, the stories of that place, the landscape, the music of the way people talk, the things they say (or don’t say) are all just in your bones a bit – those are the things you’re drawn to writing about. For some people that means writing plays set in big, metropolitan cities that lots of the audience will recognise and find familiar, and for some people it means opening a window on a place that is a bit different to the audience’s experience of life – spending a bit of time there, showing its truth and detail. So writing about Kilnsea didn’t feel like a choice – it’s just what I’m made of. And those stories – of a sea-nibbled village on the edge of busy, human things, but right in the middle of old, quiet, natural things – felt like good stories to tell.
The show witnesses you collaborate with director Tessa Walker who you’ve worked with on previous productions. How have you worked together to realise the show?
I think Tessa’s a bit magic. She can see the thing the play is trying to be even when it is just some jokes about beans on toast and an anorak. Her notes – funny, kind, warm, wise – guide you towards that. So as we’ve worked through the drafts, reading them together on Skype, we’ve looked at making things clearer, explaining the world a bit, doing our best to make sure the shape of the play feels truthful and whole. And we’ve drunk quite a lot of tea. That’s part of it too.
What have you taken away from working on the production?
I just feel really lucky. Quite a lot’s happened in the world since the play first got programmed, so to be in a rehearsal room at all, with a brilliant gang of warm, funny, creative, talented people, doing our jobs, feels properly special.
What can audiences expect from the show?
A bit of grief; a bit of romance; some line dancing.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
I just hope they enjoy it.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Big Big Sky is currently showing until Saturday 11th September at the Hampstead Theatre. To find out more, visit here…