In conversation with playwright Tom Fowler: Exploring Hope Has A Happy Meal

Tom Fowler, the playwright behind the upcoming play Hope has a Happy Meal, spoke to us about the creative process and inspiration of his first full length play. Moreover, he sheds light on the evolving writing process, which, for him, has been a transformative journey of self-education and the discovery of his own political voice.

Opening at the prestigious Royal Court in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in early June, this production promises to be a captivating experience.

Hope has a Happy Meal is a surreal quest story that follows the enigmatic character, Hope, on a frenetic return journey to the hyper-capitalist country she once escaped. In her pursuit, she embarks on a playful exploration of privatisation and capitalism versus community, all while seeking something she left behind.

Under the direction of Lucy Morrison, the Royal Court Associate Director known for her notable works such as Rapture and Scenes with Girls, the cast includes Laura Checkley, Mary Malone, Amaka Okafor, Felix Scott, and Nima Taleghani.

Hope has a Happy Meal runs from 3 June until 8 July in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre London.

How would you describe Hope has a Happy Meal?
Hope has a Happy Meal is a magical realist fairy tale about a woman called Hope returning to the People’s Republic of Koka Kola to find the family she left behind twenty-four years ago. In other words, the play is an allegorical quest story about ‘hope’ trying to come back.

What compelled you to write it?
I came up with the title and premise in 2016 when participating in a writers’ group at the Royal Court that was led by Alice Birch. At the time Britain had recently voted to leave the EU, Donald Trump had just been elected president of the US and so, as a result, I heard a lot of people talk about hope as if it had just disappeared overnight. It was from this that I conceived the idea of writing about a woman called Hope trying to come home.

What has the writing process been like?
The process of writing this play has been hard and long, partly because this is my first big, full-length play but also because in 2016, when I first conceived of the play, I was still early in my politicization. So writing this play has been the process of developing the story and the characters but also the process of me educating myself and, ultimately, becoming more confidently socialist.

How does ‘hope’ function in the narrative? Is this a hopeful play?
Over the last five years I feel like people on the left across the country have felt the experience of having hope and then losing it, and I wanted the play to reflect that. So ‘hope’ is shown to be beautiful and powerful but unreliable. It can lift you up but then tear you down just as easily.

How have rehearsals been?
Rehearsals have been great. Lucy Morrison has been reading and noting drafts of the play since the very beginning of the process, and also directed the short piece I wrote for the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper project, so there’s lots of trust there. Plus the cast and creative team are all brilliant – I feel very lucky.

Would you say that Hope has a Happy Meal is timeless, or rather more firmly rooted in right now?
I would say the play is firmly rooted in now and the politics of the last five years, but by it being set in the People’s Republic of Koka Kola (rather than Britain) there’s a detachment that hopefully makes it feel a little more universal.

What does it mean to you to have your play on at the Royal Court?
Since learning about the Royal Court, and discovering some of the incredible writers and plays that started here, having my first professional production be here has always been a goal. So yeah, it’s amazing and I’m very excited to finally share the play.

📷 Main photo: #image_title

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