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Sketty Productions and Camden People’s Theatre present


by Sketty Productions

Directed by Toby Clarke

Camden People’s Theatre

4 – 8 August 2010





A review by Jay Richards for EXTRA! EXTRA!

The fifth Camden Fringe opened last week and has already thrown up some gems. One such is Tom’s, an inspiring new piece from Sketty Productions, that tells the true story of Tom Nabarro who was paralyzed from the neck down in a snowboarding accident in Bulgaria.

Director Toby Clarke doesn’t show us much of the incident, choosing to focus more on the physical and mental aspects of paralysis and the changing relationship between Tom (Alex Clarke) and his girlfriend Ellen (Emily Wallis).

Through the use of a wire model in the shape of a man – billed as a ‘puppet’ but which looks more like an Anthony Gormley sculpture – Sketty tries to communicate Tom’s sensations and state of mind as he lies completely immobile in hospital. The cast remove and re-attach Tom’s wire ‘limbs’, all the while talking to a prosthetic life-like head operated by a member of the cast. Clarke responds, picked out by a spotlight, watching his own ‘body’ be manipulated, tugged, pulled and twisted as if it belonged to someone else. At one point, four cast members, each exercising a limb, become individual vignettes, talking to Tom, evoking a different moment in his long and difficult recuperation. It’s an impressive and inventive technique that succeeds in being visually and emotionally affecting; we understand that Tom’s body became his prison. 

Clarke is excellent, guiding us through Tom’s shifting emotional landscape with assurance. Aside from the clever staging, intelligent pacing and lighting (Pablo Fernandez Baz), which at times adds a touch of the abstract or avant garde, the highlight of the show is his waxing and waning relationship with Ellen. Before the accident, the couple squabble and seem poorly matched – Tom is outgoing and active while she is timid and slightly shrewish. After, Tom must get used to his new restricted existence, while she struggles to cope under the pressure. The accident has trapped her, too. But Wallis’ Emily blooms, warming to her new role as Tom’s carer and emotional keystone; as the show progresses the two develop a very believable chemistry, which feels both sensitive and compelling.

Tom’s could be seen on one level as a moving portrait of one person’s struggle against disability, but the exciting and incisive creative direction on show indicates that Sketty are a company to watch.  




Camden People’s Theatre
58-60 Hampstead Road
London NW1 2PY

08444 77 1000







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