Ashley Cousins talks about bringing Liz Pichon’s books TOM GATES to the stage

Name: Ashley Cousins
Name of show: Tom Gates
Venue: UK Tour
Dates of run: Click here

Can you tell me about the show?
Tom’s doing everything possible to stay out of trouble but somehow he’s got THREE sad faces on the school achievement chart! And getting another sad face means Mr Fullerman won’t let him go on the SCHOOL TRIP! Moany Marcus Meldrew is making things worse and now Tom’s annoyed his grumpy sister Delia. EVEN Amy Porter (who’s smart) won’t talk to him! Can his best friend Derek help? Will Rooster the dog stop eating his homework? Will his grandparents the Fossils ever make something he can actually EAT?

What part do you play in the show and where does it fit in to the story?
I play Marcus Meldrew and Granny! I know! Marcus goes to Oakfield School with Tom and sits next to Tom in class. It is fair to say, they aren’t the best of friends. Marcus takes great delight in thwarting Tom, and I think is a little bit jealous of Tom and his friends. Granny, on the other hand, is one half of The Fossils, the name affectionately given to Tom’s grandparents. They are full of fun and adventure. Granny enjoys odd combinations of food, and has a rather interesting first entrance! You’ll have to come and see to find out more!

What’s your favourite part of the whole show and why?
I love it all, to tell you the truth. It is so fast paced, and has been constructed in such a way that it never lulls for even a moment. It has a brilliant energy, and that is something that we’ve heard from audiences over the past few weeks. I must say, I enjoy the finale. It is like a rock concert, well its probably the closest I’ll ever get to performing in a rock concert! It is such fun. It is quite an honour to be entrusted with inhabiting the world of Tom Gates. The fans are SUPER fans, and know the subject inside out. It is a pleasure to bring these characters to life.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?
Doing this play, and working with this wonderful group of people is certainly a career highlight. Originating and creating the role of Ben for the stage production of Gangsta Granny was very special. That entire job was such a joyous time. We took it into the West End which was wonderful, and we were nominated for an Olivier Award, and all the rest of it. Just perfect. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done thus far, and I hope that continues.

Who are your biggest inspirations inside and outside of the industry?
My Mum. Her strength, courage and effervescent optimism, I find hugely inspiring. She’s had to overcome quite a serious health battle in the last couple of years, and she has done it with such grace and bravery. I worked with the late great Ann Emery a few years ago now, and she was just amazing. Tapping, and singing on the West End stage at 80 years of age, wonderful. I find lots of older people in the business inspiring. Generally, they are the people I look to and gravitate towards. I also worked with the actress Romy Baskerville, who inspired me so much and at quite a young age, that I constantly think about her wisdom and advice throughout my working life.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
No. None. I’m not very superstitious, so I don’t really believe in all of that stuff. I have a cup of tea and read the newspaper.

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?
This is difficult. My favourite music tends to change seasonally. I suppose if I was pushed to choose just one song, it would be ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’. Preferably the Joe Brown version, preferably played on a ukulele. The lyrics are absolutely beautiful, and applicable to so many occasions in life.

What’s so special about this production and why should audiences come to see it?
This is a visual feast of a production, which wonderful music by Mark Flannery, and very impressive projection. Liz’s animations are such an intrinsic element of the stories, and the way that we have incorporated them into the play is fantastic. This is a truly unique production, the likes of which I don’t think theatregoers will have witnessed before. A wonderful cast, well I would say that, a tremendous creative team, and Liz Pichon and Neal Foster’s delightful story. What more could you want!

Thanks for having Tea With Wilma


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