Tom Ratcliffe talks about harassment within the entertainment industry in Edinburgh Fringe show VELVET

Name: Tom Ratcliffe
Name of Edinburgh show: VELVET
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance That)
Performance time: 2pm
Show length: 1 hour
Ticket price: From £11

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
My name’s Tom; I’m an actor and playwright from a little Cambridgeshire village. I trained at The Oxford School of Drama, graduating in 2015. Since graduating my acting credits have included, among others, Maya Sondhi’s Sket at the Park Theatre and 5 Guys Chillin’ (Kings Head/Assembly Roxy).

As a playwright, my debut play Circa premiered at the Theater de Meervaart, Amsterdam before transferring to the Vaults Theatre as part of Pride in London. Most recently my second play, Gifted premiered at the Pleasance Theatre earlier this year. I was shortlisted for the Old Vic 12 in 2016 and longlisted for the Verity Bargate and Papatango awards in 2017.

I have kept my acting and playwriting very much separate until now…

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
VELVET is a one person show about the complex realities of harassment within the entertainment industry and how far a person is willing to go in order to achieve their dreams. The play follows Ben, a young actor who enters an online relationship with a senior industry figure with the promise of furthering his career. Ben is left to decide exactly how much he’s willing to compromise, and how far he is prepared to go in order to take this long awaited chance to make his mark as an actor.

The play looks at the #MeToo movement from the view point of an unknown young actor with little public profile, who can see no reason why the world will care about his plight.

VELVET explores not only the agony of having to decide between compromise and career, but also the danger of how the public might receive them when all is revealed.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I have always wanted to write myself a one man show and after years of failing and failing again, the idea for VELVET was born during the Edinburgh Fringe last year and I have been working on draft after draft ever since; teaming up with director Andrew Twyman (Kanye the First, Hightide; Odd Shaped Balls, Old Red Lion) in the early part of this year.

The play is naturally very relevant at this time because of its #MeToo subject matter. However more specifically for me, I think VELVET is incredibly relevant because it confronts the issue from an average joe, as opposed to celebrity, standpoint. The play comments on public perception of these types of issues in the modern day and how this changes depending on who is on the receiving end.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
The fish and chip van outside Assembly Gardens. Their scampi and chips saved my life on pretty much a daily basis last year.

Other than that an umbrella. Definitely an umbrella.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I think the funniest and definitely most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me on stage occurred during the run of Sket at the Park Theatre. I was playing JC who was a volatile, if not misunderstood, teenager and I had a scene where I grabbed one of the other actors and threw them around the stage.

The play was in the 90 seat space at the theatre, so those who have been there will know the intimacy of the space. So one night I grabbed the other actor ready to throw, and as I did I let out a very loud (plastic chair in school style) fart. So as I felt this happening I just shouted over it.

It was very embarrassing (and let’s face it; hilarious). I had to carry on being angry for the rest of the scene. That was really hard.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
As an actor and writer, especially heading to the fringe with a one person show, it’s hard to look past the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I’m a big believer in creating your own opportunities and she is an exceptionally talented example of what it’s possible to achieve.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Nothing fancy here. I always make sure I do some sort of warm up before I go on. I don’t tend to take things too seriously before I get on stage as I’m trying to keep as playful as possible! However that’s going to be far less fun being the only actor this time around.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I’m really excited to see Electrolyte by James Meteyard at The Pleasance Dome and The Cats Mother at Underbelly Cowgate (both Wildcard productions). I know these teams very well having trained at drama school with a lot of them and I know the work is going to be excellent! Highly recommend!

I’m also always excited to see what the Paines Plough Roundabout has to offer down at Summerhall.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
I think people should come and see VELVET over the thousands of other shows at the fringe because it looks at a subject matter, which is probably going to be done a lot this year, in a non political but human and uncomfortable (in the best way) light. Also it looks at harassment from a young man’s perspective and there perhaps hasn’t been as much of a revelation of #MeToo for the LGBT community (apart from the Kevin Spacey scandal). Although the subject matter is obviously tough, this is a show that will make you laugh and maybe cry (if I do my job well). It’s a bit of a roller-coaster: but who doesn’t love that in a show?!


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