written by Mark Twain
adaptation by Paul Stebbings directed by Gaspard Legendre
Tom Sawyer is one of the best known novels written in the United States. It traces the fortunes of the roguish boy Tom, his adventures, hopes, fantasies, romances and his harsh collision with a very adult world of greed and murder.
The book is a thriller and a comedy, an exploration of youth and a rich picture of rural life in nineteenth century Mississippi. The novel is ideal material for a stage adaptation as it is full of action and every scene is centred around one character: Tom Sawyer, perhaps the most engaging youth in American literature.
TNT approach this story with the verve and dynamism that has made their work so popular across the globe. This is fast and furious physical theatre, where comedy switches to gripping thriller and back again to romance.
Tom Sawyer is not the only extraordinary character in this tale: there is the outcast lad Huckleberry Finn, the ever perplexed Aunt Polly – half mother half teacher, the murder Bad’n Joe (rescued from the casual racism of the time in this version) and there is Becky: a girl wise beyond her years who falls for Tom while keeping her balance.
The creative team of Gaspard Legendre and Paul Stebbings have a long experience of working together on productions such as NOTRE DAME and LE PETIT PRINCE, and the play will include an powerful and lyrical musical score by composer John Kenny. The production follows on from TNT’s long association with the American repertoire with such productions as GRAPES OF WRATH, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, MOON PALACE and DEATH OF A SALESMAN.
Mark Twain was one of the great story tellers in the English language, a writer who knew how to balance the comic with the serious and bring a smile to his audience even as he drew them towards deeper truths. This dramatisaton of what may be his finest work will offer the audience a thrilling performance that explores the essence of modern America.
It has been a lot of fun re-imagining this adventure novel written by Mark Twain!
The five actors that make up this ensemble tell this children’s tale in a very cinematic way, whilst maintaining a theatrical experience…
The characters address the audience members directly, creating and maintaining a connection with them throughout. We use movement to embody the characters at different stages of life, social status and their relationships within this 1840s micro-society in the fictional Saint Petersburg, Missouri, right-side of the Missippi river. The actors play both children and adults within the story. Despite this being a childrens novel, the characters are intense, have depth and are extremely complex.
‘School days’ create a timeline in the piece: every day, Alfred goes to school, accompanied by his father. We see his relationship with another boy and with Tom… The actual school is never represented on stage, but we know this is the place Tom constantly avoids, preferring to pursue more exciting adventures…
Minimal multipurpose items of set create different environments throughout the play, sparking the imagination of the audience in visualising scenes. Set changes are danced: the actors-characters take joy in creating new spaces and bringing the audience members with them into these different representations within Mark Twain’s novel. Twice, the characters imagine a scene, and through different techniques, we physically see what is being imagined by the character. This happens when the three boys on the island imagine how the towns inhabitants would react to their absence, and at the end of the play when Polly visits the judges house: this house is un-built in front of us, taken away by the wind… At the first blackout in the play, things change and we watch the action… sideways… This portrayal reminds the audience of the theatricality whilst still representing the scenes of the story intensely, but in a new way.
Each element of the set is highly symbolic in the life of Tom Sawyer: the main structure, a raked stage built like a slide could represent how Tom is diving into life, the permanent unbalance in his adventures, and will represent in turns, the roof of Aunt Polly’s house, the island, the stairs of the haunted house and the cave… Benches represent of law and obligation: at Polly’s house or in the church, it’s never Tom’s choice to sit on them. They also represent Mr Williams’ grave. Fences are painted by Tom at the beginning – how will this child, who only dreams of freedom and adventures, paint these symbols of laws and order. Fences define spaces Tom shall not trespass… but at the beginning, he will just jump them. A door will add more context to the different scenes, the way characters enter and exit different places helping the audience members follow the story. It is also a symbol of the now and the future – before and after entering new places - and will represent Mr Williams’ coffin. The children are discussing death to frighten each other but soon they will face the murder and maybe realise that life always ends…
The other children and adults in the story walk in a set way, in squares, respecting abstract rules and law of real spaces, spaces created by the Government in this micro-society, never trespassing the fences… Apart from Bad’n’Joe who will act more on instinct, driven by smell and breaking the window in the trial scene… Is this reference used again in the iconic scene of Milos Forman’s ONE FLEW OVER A CUCKOO’s NEST? Cancelling the racist idea of him being an Injun in the original text (please see the writer’s note), we work on how instinctive the character could be, driven by his different senses and with a different relationship to death.
Huck surprises the audience in the way he appears each time: he appears in places and ways we don’t expect. He breaks the spaces as he is a free spirit. This freedom is one of the reasons why Tom admires him… He becomes the leader at the end of the show, for the last adventure, a direct wink to Mark Twain’s second novel and to what could be written at the end of a movie : « to be continued ».
Even if the story seems simple at first sight, the main themes are ones adults will often face and the play is relatable anyone, of any age. These universal themes speak to all ages and translate across time and continents…
|Tom Sawyer||Christian Anstee|
|Joe and ensemble||James Hepworth|
|Aunt Polly and ensemble||Imogen Hunter|
|Becky and ensemble||Faye Lord|
|Faye and ensemble||Chris Mawson|
|Original score||John Kenny|
|Producer||Grantly Marshall - ADGE|
|Co-Producer in CZ, SK, PL||Svatopluk Schläfer|
Like Tom Sawyer, Christian Anstee loves adventure. Christian graduated from East 15 Acting School and furthered his studies at L’Ecole Gaulier, Paris. He has performed in shows such as LA BOHEME for the Dorset Opera Festival and recently in A CHRISTMAS CAROL for TNT. Now touring all over Europe, he is excited to explore the bustling cities, find the hidden gems and eat all kinds of local cuisine !
James, a Yorkshireman by birth, studied Professional Acting at Drama Studio London, graduating in 2017. His theatre credits include: THE WAY OF THE WORLD, KING LEAR, THE COMEDY OF ERRORS and CHERRY BLOSSOM.
James is delighted to be playing Joe over the course of this tour. Playing villains has always interested James, as it provides a great means to explore the character traits and psyche of someone outside what we may consider the norm, and to find the humanity in characters often not given such an outlet.
James has a great love of all things cinematic, being a film buff of sorts, as well as a writer and director. He is hoping that this tour of Europe will provide him with a vast experience to take home and put into his work.
James currently lives in London, with his partner Stevie, whom he would like to thank for her ceaseless patience and strength over the last 7 years.
Imogen graduated from Drama Studio London in 2016 and has been working ever since; including writing and producing THE SECRET LETTERS OF GERTIE & HEN which debuted at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre in October 2018 – an ambitious project that viewed WW2 from the eyes of two ten-year-old pen friends from London & Berlin.
Other training includes the Brighton Puppetry School.
Theatre Credits Include: Natalia in A MARRIAGE PROPOSAL (The Etcetera Theatre); Libby in I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES (Tristan Bates); Billy/Puppeteer/Ensemble in THE LURKING FEAR (Old Red Lion Theatre); Prince Charming in SLEEPING BEAUTY (Touring); Jessica in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (Touring); Narrator in THE GLASS HOUSE (RADA); Sally Anderson/ Ensemble in A CHRISTMAS CAROL the Musical (The Stockwell Playhouse); Jessie Frost in THE BRIGHT & BOLD DESIGN (New Diorama Theatre). Other Credits Include: Beth in C.A.T.S (Radio); Sarah in EVI (Radio); Cinema Girl in WHAT WE DO BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Short Film); Maria in SISTERS (Short Film).
Born in Sussex, England, Faye originally trained as a dancer. She graduated from Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 2015, and has since gone on to explore the theatre world through various forms. She will be performing as part of a summer tour of the UK as Mum in GANGSTA GRANNY with Heartbreak Productions. Other theatre credits include: Juliet in ROMEO AND JULIET (Wuxi Theatre, Shanghai International Arts Festival); Hero in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; Phyllis in THE RAILWAY CHILDREN; Sapphire/Lauren in BILLIONAIRE BOY (Heartbreak Productions); Alice in ALICE’S ADVENTURE’S IN WONDERLAND; Abigail Mews in original writing CREAM (Unmasked Theatre); Sister Agatha in DRACULA (Brief Hiatus); and THE LONDON OLYMPIC CEREMONIES 2012. When not performing, Faye enjoys yoga, the seaside and drinking copious amounts of tea.
Chris is a Manchester Born actor who trained at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance in London. He is an actor, theatre maker and pianist with additional skills in stage combat (BADC intermediate - Distinction), physical theatre and interactive/ immersive theatre. Chris trained on Rose Bruford’s European Theatre Arts Course, a contemporary drama school training that trains versatile actors capable of producing their own work. Further training for Chris includes his time at the Estonian Academy of Music and theatre where he trained in acting, singing, dancing and basic acrobatics. Since graduating, Chris has performed across Europe at theatres including: Västmanlands Teater (Sweden), Théâtre de Ménilmontant (Paris), The Bunker Theatre (London) and Summerhall (Edinburgh). Past credits include: THE MEN WHO MADE FRANKENSTEIN (playing Dr Frankenstein), SNAPPER (playing the lead), THE CROSSING PLACE (physical theatre tour). In 2020, Chris will star in the next feature from award winning film director Benjamin Rider titled SOME YOUTHS OF THIS TOWN. Chris has also worked with award winning film director Giacomo Mantovani in London.