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Photo cedit @ Helen Murray

Interview: In conversation with Tom Fowler

Writer Tom Fowler on his new play, Hope Has A Happy Meal

Hope? Hope, is that you?”

Years and years ago, Hope disappeared. Now, she’s back. To find something she left behind.

But in the People’s Republic of Koka Kola – a world of dwindling resources, corruption and corporate giants – what happens to Hope?

Writer Tom Fowler talks about his play, which is described as a surreal and frenetic quest through a hyper-capitalist country.

Tom Fowler at rehearsals

How would you describe Hope has a Happy Meal?

Hope has a Happy Meal is a magical realist fairy tale about a woman called Hope returning to the People’s Republic of Koka Kola to find the family she left behind twenty-four years ago.  In other words, the play is an allegorical quest story about ‘hope’ trying to come back.  

What compelled you to write it?

I came up with the title and premise in 2016 when participating in a writers’ group at the Royal Court that was led by Alice Birch.  At the time Britain had recently voted to leave the EU, Donald Trump had just been elected president of the US and so, as a result, I heard a lot of people talk about hope as if it had just disappeared overnight.  It was from this that I conceived the idea of writing about a woman called Hope trying to come home.  

What has the writing process been like?

The process of writing this play has been hard and long, partly because this is my first big, full-length play but also because in 2016, when I first conceived of the play, I was still early in my politicization.  So writing this play has been the process of developing the story and the characters but also the process of me educating myself and, ultimately, becoming more confidently socialist.

How does ‘hope’ function in the narrative? Is this a hopeful play?

Over the last five years I feel like people on the left across the country have felt the experience of having hope and then losing it, and I wanted the play to reflect that.  So ‘hope’ is shown to be beautiful and powerful but unreliable.  It can lift you up but then tear you down just as easily.

How have rehearsals been?

Rehearsals have been great.  Lucy Morrison has been reading and noting drafts of the play since the very beginning of the process, and also directed the short piece I wrote for the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper project, so there’s lots of trust there.  Plus the cast and creative team are all brilliant – I feel very lucky.

Would you say that Hope has a Happy Meal is timeless, or rather more firmly rooted in right now?

I would say the play is firmly rooted in now and the politics of the last five years, but by it being set in the People’s Republic of Koka Kola (rather than Britain) there’s a detachment that hopefully makes it feel a little more universal.

What does it mean to you to have your play on at the Royal Court?

Since learning about the Royal Court, and discovering some of the incredible writers and plays that started here, having my first professional production be here has always been a goal.  So yeah, it’s amazing and I’m very excited to finally share the play.

Our thanks to Tom and Royal Court for sharing this interview with us.

Hope Has A Happy Meal is playing at Royal Court until 8 July. Further information and bookings can be found here.

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