Plays by Tom Basden

The Crocodile

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Basden's The Crocodile is a satirical play based on an 1865 short story of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The play is about a struggling actor (a civil servant in Dostoyevsky's story) who begins to receive the recognition he feels he deserves only after being swallowed whole by a crocodile at the zoo. It was commissioned by Manchester International Festival and first performed as part of the Festival, in a co-production with The Invisible Dot, on 13 July 2015 at the Pavilion Theatre, Manchester.

The play is set in a zoo in St Petersburg in 1865. Ivan Matveich, a jobbing actor in his thirties, is visiting the zoo one afternoon with his best friend, Zack, who attempts to persuade Ivan to abandon the stage for some more worthwhile pursuit. When Ivan is swallowed whole by a crocodile, he at first cries out (from inside the crocodile) for someone to slice the beast open and rescue him... but, when he discovers that his new situation brings him instant celebrity, he comes to see it as smart career move, and sets out to exploit it to the full.

The Manchester International Festival premiere was directed by Ned Bennett and designed by Fly Davis, with Simon Bird as Zack, Ciarán Owens as Ivan, Emma Sidi as Anya and Marek Larwood as Mr Popov etc.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Basden's play Holes is an apocalyptic comedy in which four survivors of a plane crash realise they may be all that's left of the human race. It was first performed on 4 August 2013 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in a production by The Invisible Dot Ltd.

When a plane crash kills all but four of its passengers, the survivors are left stranded on a desert island. Gus, Marie and Ian are colleagues who were on their way to a conference, whilst the other is a lone teenage girl, Erin. After trying to send out a Mayday message through the radio, they are stunned to discover that a nuclear catastrophe has wiped out the entire civilised world. Now it’s up to them to try and preserve the knowledge built up by centuries of human civilisation and to argue about which of the men gets to propagate the human race with the unfortunate Erin.

The Edinburgh Fringe premiere was directed by Phillip Breen and designed by Rhys Jarman, with Matthew Baynton as Gus, Bebe Cave as Erin, Daniel Rigby as Ian and Katy Wix as Marie.

The play opened in London at the Arcola Tent on 16 July 2014 in a production also directed by Phillip Breen and designed by Rhys Jarman, with the same cast except for Sharon Singh playing Erin and Elizabeth Berrington playing Marie.

Joseph K

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Basden's Joseph K is a darkly comic stage adaptation of Franz Kafka’s classic novel The Trial, relocating the source material to 21st-century Britain. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, London, on 11 November 2010.

It’s Joseph K's thirtieth birthday and he's about to settle down with some takeaway sushi. However, his delivery is intercepted by two men who have not only taken a bite out of his California roll but, rather more alarmingly, inform him that he is under arrest. He has no idea what he’s supposed to have done wrong but he's determined to clear his name. As he tries to make sense of his situation and to confront those who threaten his freedom, Joseph is thrown headlong into a fight against an invisible and illogical law.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Lyndsey Turner and designed by Chloe Lamford. The cast (playing all the parts) comprised Tom Basden, Siân Brooke, Pip Carter and Tim Key. It was generally well received by the critics, with Lyn Gardner in The Guardian observing that 'Basden offers a worryingly familiar yet crazy world that suggests that the madness of contemporary life drives us all insane', while The Evening Standard described the play as 'breathtakingly funny, expertly constructed and dripping with acid wit'.

There is a War

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tom Basden’s There is a War is a bleakly comic play about the absurdity of war. It was first performed as part of a double bill, Double Feature: Two, with Nightwatchman by Prasanna Puwanarajah, at the Paintframe, a specially converted space at the National Theatre, London, on 26 July 2011.

As soldiers, priests and scavengers roam a battle-scorched landscape, young medical officer Anne, desperately trying to reach a front-line hospital, finds herself abandoned and useless. The war is raging between the almost indistinguishable Blues and Grays, with no end in sight. On her journey Anne encounters, amongst others, an angry priest, some blasé gravediggers, a clown, a group of campaigners and a recently promoted General. But no one seems to know what exactly it is they’re mean to be fighting for.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Lyndsey Turner and designed by Soutra Gilmour. The cast included Phoebe Fox as Anne, Tom Basden, Kirsty Bushell and Trystan Gravelle.

Picture of Tom Basden

© Zoe Barling

Tom Basden is an award-winning comedian, writer and actor. He is also a founding member of the sketch troupe, Cowards.

His plays include Party (Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2010, Sydney International Festival and the Arts Theatre and winner of Edinburgh Fringe First Award); Joseph K, adapted from Franz Kafka’s The Trial (Gate Theatre, 2010); There is a War (Paintframe, National Theatre, 2011) and The Crocodile, based on a short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Manchester International Festival, 2015).

Comedy shows include Cowards (co-written with Tim Key, Lloyd Woolf and Stefan Golaszewski, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2005-06); Tom Basden Won’t Say Anything (Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2007, Melbourne International Comedy Festival and winner of the if.comedy Best Newcomer Award); Freeze (co-written with Tim Key, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2008); Now That’s What I call Music-Based Comedy (Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Soho Theatre, 2009).

Television includes Plebs (ITV), which won the award for Best New Comedy Programme at the 2013 British Comedy Awards; The Wrong Mans, Cowards, Armstrong and Miller and Brave Young Men all for the BBC and Fresh Meat for Channel 4. Radio includes Party (nominated for a Writers’ Guild Award), Cowards and Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better (with Mark Watson and Tim Key) all for BBC Radio 4. His short films include Piano for Beginners, The Cop and The One and Only Herb McGwyer Plays Wallis Island, co-written with Tim Key, which won Best British Short Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Best Overall Film at the No Spot Short Film Festival in New York and was nominated for a BAFTA.

As an actor his television credits include The Wrong Mans, After You’ve Gone, Armstrong and Miller, Jam and Jerusalem, Never Mind the Buzzcocks (BBC) and Star Stories (Channel 4).