Interview: Tim Cook, Tremors

With politics on everyone’s mind in the run-up to the general election, Broken Silence Theatre’s new play Tremors, about a disgraced MP, could hardly be more timely. Written by the company’s Artistic Director, and award-winning playwright, Tim Cook, the play receives its world premiere at London’s King’s Head Theatre later this month.

Tremors is set in a modern day dystopian Britain where arson and rioting are rife,” explains Tim. “The plot revolves around a rising star of the Labour Party, a young MP called Tom Crowe, who is involved in a scandal in a hotel room. In an attempt to rebuild his image he travels back to his seaside hometown of Eastbourne to make amends. But he finds himself caught between saving either the community, which is very close to breaking point, or his career.”

Although the timing of the production – just a couple of weeks after the election – may appear deliberate, in fact the play’s been in development for some time. “I actually wrote the first draft of this play over six years ago,” says Tim. “Then I came to rewrite it for a rehearsed reading at the Old Red Lion Theatre last November. It’s strange, but I didn’t have to rewrite the play for 2017 as much as I thought I would. Although a lot has happened in the world of politics in the last six years, I feel like nothing has changed at the same time. Having said that, everything that’s happened has definitely influenced the direction of this production.

“First and foremost I want the audience to enjoy the show, but I also hope each audience member goes away and thinks about their own relationship to politics. Tremors isn’t a play that sides with any particular political party – that’s not the point. It’s a character-driven interrogation of modern politics, from the point of view of a young idealistic MP. It’s asking the question whether we should demand more from those in positions of power.” 

Tim’s inspiration for Tremors came from researching news stories, particularly those about politicians and protest groups. “It’s not based on any specific politician, but I wanted to absorb lots of stories and lots of information and then go off and create a character that embodies everything good and bad about modern politics. On the one hand he’s a saviour, on the other hand he’s a villain. It depends on which side of the fence you sit. In the world of the play he’s seen as one of the only MPs left in the country with a conscience. You see him wrestling with a moral dilemma in the play – that probably comes from my own desire to see a politician who really cares. I also wanted to represent Eastbourne on stage, having grown up there myself. Location plays a huge part in the tone of the play. The seaside. The pier. All that stuff. There’s something unique and strangely isolating about growing up in a British seaside town.”

Tim’s excited to be returning to the King’s Head, which holds special memories for him: “It feels great. The King’s Head have always been very supportive of Broken Silence and my work as a playwright. My play Crushed, about the 2010 London student protests, transferred to the King’s Head after winning the Best New Play Award at Brighton Fringe in 2015. Tremors, in many ways, feels like an indirect sequel to Crushed, so it’s brilliant to come back two years later and premiere the show at the same theatre. The King’s Head are really bold with their programming too – it’s great to play alongside so many other fantastic shows this summer.”

Most of the Tremors cast worked together on Broken Silence’s Necessity, which transferred to the Bread & Roses Theatre from Brighton earlier this year. “We’re lucky to have an exceptional company for this production, including Broken Silence Associate Artist Cerys Knighton and East 15 graduate Vicky Winning,” says Tim. “William Vasey joined the cast for our reading at the Old Red Lion, and plays the lead role of Tom Crowe. He absolutely has the presence of an early career MP – a sort of Blair/Cameron hybrid – and I think his performance in the play is remarkable.

“Paul Macauley, writer and director of Necessity, also returns to direct Tremors. I love working with Paul – we’ve worked together for four years now – he’s a great director of actors. I really value our team, because I think building long-term relationships in the industry is very important.”

Tim founded Broken Silence Theatre in 2013, after graduating from RADA. “We’re based in Brighton and exclusively produce new writing,” he explains. “We care about promoting unheard voices and creating work that is urgent and vital. We also place a specific focus on the quality of the writing and performances; that’s what our aesthetic is based on. We’ve managed to produce work on a very regular basis – Tremors will be our twelfth full production in four years – and each production has grown in terms of scale and quality. We want to continue that over the next few years and work with as many new writers as possible.

“And we’ve got lots coming up this year. In August we’ve got another new show – yet to be announced – coming to the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley, which I’m really excited about. We’re also planning a brand new London showcase for regional writers, helping playwrights from outside London bring their work to the capital. On top of that we’ve also been workshopping two other plays, which we hope to premiere over the next twelve or so months. So it’s going to be a really exciting year for us!”

Tremors is at the King’s Head Theatre on 25th-26th June and 2nd-3rd July.

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