Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Tom Salinsky: Kingmaker

By | Published on Wednesday 29 April 2015

We first stumbled across ‘Kingmaker’ up at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, when one of our rather impressed writers gave the show a glowing review, so I was thrilled to see new London dates in the offing.

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The satirical play, focusing on a seemingly bumbling former London Mayor (sound familiar…?) and his bid for party leadership, is the work of Tom Salinsky and Robert Khan. I put some questions to Tom, ahead of the show’s upcoming three week run at The Arts Theatre.

CM: Tell us about the play. What happens in it?
TS: It’s a sharp witty satire on politics, power and personalities. Bumbling but charismatic ex-Mayor of London and Conservative MP Max Newman has been gifted an opportunity to make his play for the leadership. Only two people stand in his way. Formidable Eleanor Hopkirk from the whips’ office and callow young MP Daniel Regan. Can Max’s scheming and bluff confidence win the day or will one of his rivals find a way to stop him?

CM: It’s not hard to see where the inspiration for this might have come from… but why did you decide to write a play about this particular subject?
TS: We’re always on the look-out for strong personalities in difficult situations. It’s a wonderful recipe for good stories, and it’s nice for the audience if there’s also something that they recognise. Max, like a handful of real-world politicians, is very popular because he apparently doesn’t play the game the way that most of his colleagues do. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in power, quite the reverse.

CM: Is this a political play with an agenda, or more of a character study?
TS: I hope it’s a bit of both, but the agenda isn’t party political. We make no secret of the fact that Max is a Tory but Kingmaker is about how political deals are done, often cutting the electorate out of the process entirely; it isn’t a piece of propaganda for Labour or any other party.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast?
TS: Alan Cox (pictured) is magnificently charismatic as Max Newman and we’re so pleased and happy to be working with him. Even people who hate the politics of the right end up loving Max just a bit, even though they appreciate the horrible things he’s capable of, and that’s because Alan’s performance is so brilliantly judged. You can’t create a character like that and give him no real opposition though, so the brilliant Joanna Bending is a huge asset to the production. Our fantastic director Hannah Eidinow suggested her and she’s now the only person I can imagine in the part. Laurence Dobiesz completes the triumvirate. He’s a very familiar voice from BBC Radio 4 and he’s beautifully underplaying the part of Dan Regan, while nailing all of the punchlines. He’s an immensely skilful actor and we’re thrilled to have him.

CM: You co-wrote the play with Robert Khan. How did you end up working together on this?
TS: Robert and I have known each other for far longer than I care to remember. We used to write scurrilous satirical leaflets while at University together (and then photocopy them because blogs hadn’t been invented yet). This is our third play together following ‘Coalition’ (about the plight of the Liberal Democrats) and Making News (about the BBC).

CM: How exactly do you write as a duo…? Sitting down in a room together? Or do you put down your own ideas before bringing them together…?
TS: Most of the actual writing we do on our laptops in our own rooms. We usually get together to throw ideas around and hammer out a rough shape, then we exchange drafts by email and revise each other’s work. When we first started working with Hannah, our director, she commented that none of our stuff felt like it had been written by two people, and I think that’s because we rewrite each other’s work so often. Writing is rewriting. First drafts are usually awful.

CM: Your company Spontaneity Shop has produced ‘Kingmaker’, but it’s actually an improv company, isn’t it? Can you tell us about it, and what you do?
TS: The Spontaneity Shop produces improvised comedy shows, including ‘The Beau Zeaux’, featuring Thom Tuck, Marcus Brigstocke, Pippa Evans and many others, which heads to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. We also offer workshops so others can learn these skills and possibly put on their own improvised comedy shows. And we go into banks, law firms, ad agencies and the like and teach them to give better presentations, become more inspiring leaders, negotiate better deals, or just be nicer to each other.

CM: What’s next for you? Any new projects coming up?
TS: Our latest Edinburgh Fringe play is a bit of a departure. ‘Impossible’ is the unbelievable true story of the friendship, rivalry and eventually deadly feud between magician Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. The two men met in the 1920s but Doyle was an ardent support of life after death and Houdini regularly exposed the tricks of fake psychics in his stage show. We’re delighted to be working again with Alan Cox, who will be playing Houdini, and Phill Jupitus who will be playing Doyle, and Hannah Eidinow is once again directing. Pleasance Dome, 1:20pm, every day from 5 August.

‘Kingmaker’ is on at The Arts Theatre (Above The Arts) from 4-23 May. See the venue website here for more info and to book.

LINKS: artstheatrewestend.co.uk | www.the-spontaneity-shop.com | twitter.com/spontaneityshop

Photo: Idil Sukan



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