Jack Thorne's Burying Your Brother in the Pavement is a play that tackles the story of a teenage boy grieving for his dead brother with emotional honesty and imaginative flair. Written specifically for young people, it was commissioned as part of the 2008 National Theatre Connections Festival and premiered by youth theatres across the UK, including a performance at the National Theatre in July 2008.
The play revolves around Tom, 'an ordinary-looking teenager in his early teens'. He is first encountered hiding in the attic to escape the traumatic funeral wake for his brother, Luke, which is taking place in the house below. Luke died on the streets of the dingy, crime-ridden Tunstall Estate, his neck slashed by a broken bottle. The world outside, reflected through Tom's vivid imagination, is colourful and surreal: he is the second coming of Christ; his teacher, Mr Wilkins, has sex with a blow-up doll; people break out unexpectedly into music-hall routines. Tom hatches a plan to bury his brother under the pavement where he died, and camps out there, meeting a succession of characters: planning officials, tramps, undertakers, police officers, sisters, mothers, estate agents, ghosts, pavement elephants, sky dragons and a boy called Tight who wants to sell him a Travelcard. It transpires that Luke had sneaked off to the Tunstall Estate because he was secretly gay and had a crush on a poor boy there. In a further twist, Tom discovers that his brother's death wasn’t in fact a street crime but suicide born of shame. As the ghost of his dead brother says, “I felt crushed, so I crushed myself.”
In a production note accompanying the text, Thorne states: 'The most important thing is that this play is kept scruffy – nothing is beautiful – everything is quick and swiftly accomplished. This should look like a piece of theatre achieved on the bounce and stuffed full of life.'