The tube is ripe for comedy.
What's with all the adverts for vitamins endorsed by Tess Daley? Why is the Belgravia Hair Centre plastered everywhere? And don't get me started on the trains being ridiculously overcrowded, competition over that last spare seat, the politics of wearing a backpack, or the awkwardness of offering up a seat to someone. My dad was forlorn one evening when he was offered a tube seat for the very first time. Society had now labelled him old... a dark day that will happen to us all.
In protest, dad has refused to visit London since.
The tube is a fantastic setting for a play. If you live in London, it's a bit like the weather: we all talk about it, and how well our day goes can hinge on it. It's part and parcel of being a Londoner, and has been for 160 years.
I take the tube every day. I live in Acton Town and take the Piccadilly towards Cockfosters. It occurred to me that this contained setting would be perfect for a play. In 'Cockfosters', we have two strangers — James and Tori — who meet at Heathrow and, as a love story blossoms, they encounter various commuters and characters at each tube stop. I've bumped into people I rather wouldn't have on the tube before, so that happens pretty early on when a loudmouth called Richard gets on, en route for "some jars with Cammers in Hammers", which he feels everyone needs to know about.
Likewise, a little later on, the two loudest American tourists of all time join the journey, shouting at top volume (which I've seen more than once on the tube), trying to find wherever it is they're supposed to be going — "South-Wark?! Clap-Ham?!? Dagen-Ham?! Something-Ham?!" And when they discover they need to take the Northern line south… that doesn't go down well.
Cockfosters is on at The Turbine Theatre in Battersea, 9-20 January 2024
All images © Cockfosters