The Academy Abroad: A Conversation with Tom Chandler
Tell me about this theatre group of yours… How did it start? Where is it going?
I think it was 2019, I'd been working for a year in a couple Off-Broadway shows including Your Alice and Trainspotting. There was me, Tom Inman, Maeve O'Haire, Danny Beaton, Jack McLaughlin, and Chloé Wilson and a couple more alums, they had just graduated.
And Tom [Inman] was writing a play because it was difficult landing Shakespeare jobs right out of school, so he just wrote his own take. It was a reversal of Romeo and Juliet, called Juliet and Romeo,and he changed where the focus was, and did his own thing, kind of, flip the perspective. Taking that as inspiration he made a modern comedy out of it. When he asked me to direct, he knew I was interested in directing and that we have the same sense of humour, that we were really good mates and I'd just “get it”
We put together a cast of 10, got our group together, and needed to get a space. We found a bar in Hell's Kitchen, not far from where we lived. We just asked the bar, "Hey, can we rent it out?" And they gave us the backroom and we, you know, had to beg, to borrow, for props, for costumes, and all that. After everything was said and done, we actually managed to break even which was great [laughs].
That kind of ended up being the first iteration of the group, and Tom [Inman] came up with the name "Giggle Riot" as he just wanted to make funny plays, you know, that weren't “trying to say something.” There were so many heavy, political pieces, we missed just doing silly plays.
This is more off the beaten path than I expected it would be. Was that always the idea, or was it that old adage that necessity is the mother of invention?
[Laughs] Oh, it was an absolute necessity. The name of the group being "Giggle Riot," and us being a group of recent grads, it wasn't so much that we had a plan to form a theatre company... all that came in the end. We applied for theatres in London, and we decided to really turn Giggle Riot into something, to make it official. We started a brand page, and a website, and managed to make it into something.
The group has many Academy alums. What does that community feel like, what does it mean to you?
Well, I don't think I would be doing this, or certainly wouldn't have done as much as I have without them. Without working with the greater Academy network, and that community in general where we all help each other out, I wouldn't be here now, for sure. The international community also really helps each other out. There’s this sense of everyone really supporting each other. Especially with our group where we'll write something for ourselves and all put it together. We’re constantly looking to write together and create and put each other up for auditions and recommendations and things.
And what is it that compels you to do this work?
I think it's just people, to put it simply. It's collaborating. It's the joy that bounces between each other in the room, and that energy of collaboration. Even when I was working at a bar and learning how to make cocktails, you really have to be good at working together, at working in a team.
And you guys have a show going up now, where can people find out more about this?
So we are currently in the midst of a run of a new play called Night Light by Maeve O'Haire and myself. I'm directing it as well. It was nominated for two Offies, two Off West End Awards, for Set Design and Most Promising New Playwright for Meave and I.
The information is, of course, available online.
Wonderful, Tom. You’re fighting the good fight and I wish you all the best.