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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

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Tom Basden: finding the funny in the 'prison of your personality'

Tuesday 22nd July 2014

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Very rarely, reality has the knack of upstaging art with a spectacularly unforeseen twist. Tom Basden's play Holes is set on a desert island in the aftermath of a plane crash. Three of the four survivors are colleagues on their way to a conference – much of the comedy arises from watching these people attempt to face their new situation with the same strategies they employed in their office relationships. It's sharply observed and painfully funny in a very English way: this is the comedy of awkwardness, self-importance and passive-aggression, with occasional poignant flashes of courage or sympathy. But it's also shot through with gallows humour; there are jokes about the pilot's corpse, and looting through dead passengers' luggage.

Basden wrote the first draft in 2010, reworked it for the Edinburgh fringe last year and tweaked it again for the current London transfer to the Arcola. No one could have imagined that, on the day of its first preview, nightmarish images of charred plane wreckage and looted suitcases would be all over the evening news...

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