What's On

Your guide to everything in North East

Creative comic Tom Wrigglesworth inspired by grandad's cassette tapes

The relationship comedian Tom Wrigglesworth had with his grandad forms the foundation of his latest show

Tom Wrigglesworth will be at Gala Theatre Durham on March 21
Tom Wrigglesworth will be at Gala Theatre Durham on March 21

During our 24 years together, me and my grandad talked for hours at the table where he could always be found.

These conversations undoubtedly shaped the person I turned into, but I would love to have recorded them so I had something to return to when a dose of his wisdom would be “just what the doctor ordered”, as he used to say.

Interviewing award-winning comedian Tom Wrigglesworth made me revisit this source of regret.

His latest show, Utterly at Odds with the Universe, is a window into his relationship with his DIY wizard of a grandad, prompted by a significant discovery.

“After my grandad died, my granny moved into my parents’ house,” he explains. “She lived in the basement while they lived upstairs. When they moved her across I found a box of cassette tapes that no one had seen or heard for years.

“So obviously the first challenge was to find a cassette recorder,” he adds with a laugh.

Once that 21st-century rarity was secured, Tom sat down to listen.

“They were full of my grandad recording mad things when he got this tape recorder back in the mid-80s.

“He’d watch brass band concerts in the civic hall and interview members of the audience, or he’d tape the music and then leave a commentary saying who did well, or that the trombonist had let himself down a bit,” he laughs.

“Then there might be a critique of the cake which was served in the interval or the sound of an engine he’d just fixed.”

There were also interviews conducted between him and Tom, aged about seven.

“We’d interview each other about what we’d been doing or what we thought about certain things.

“Listening to it made me realise that I’m just like him. I’ve never thought I was much like either of my parents... those tapes could have been me interviewing my nephew.”

Tom’s granny moving in offered further inspiration for comedic product, namely Hang-Ups, one of his many successful Radio Four programmes and series, which join his recent TV presenting stint on BBC2’s Engineering Giants on his CV.

“When she moved in, it suddenly became so obvious how mad my parents were and how uptight... they’re on, like, DEFCON 4 or whatever it is all the time,” he laughs.

“All it takes is the collection of the bins to be a few days out and it seems to throw them out with such ferocity... meanwhile, downstairs, my granny was living really calmly and peacefully.

“Hang-Ups was a kind of an observation of the generations, I suppose, which I told through my phone calls home. My mum and dad liked it, although they were obviously quite stressed about the prospect.”

But back to the show Tom is bringing to Durham.

Utterly at Odds with the Universe has been described as heart wrenching and hilarious. It sees Tom exploring his relationship with his grandad, as well as the fantasy of being able to make ‘one final interview’.

“It’s really about growing up with someone you love, the effect they had on you and the last conversation you had with them.

“The strange thing was, when I was writing it and was ready to go up to Edinburgh last year, my granny was getting very old and she was convinced she was she was going to die while I was up there.

“Because she was so sure, we had the ‘last conversation’ before I left. Most last conversations aren’t done with that knowledge.

“I was lucky to have that with my granny and it was probably the best few minutes I’ve ever had. It was amazing, so cathartic.

“One of the points of the show is to have that conversation. It doesn’t go out of date, it’s always valid and to have it is so wonderful for everyone.”

Reading what I’ve just written, it strikes me that I haven’t made this show sound laugh-a-minute which, judging by the reviews, does it a disservice.

“Ideally people laugh for 80 minutes and cry for 10 minutes,” says Tom. “Then they usually leave saying they’re going to phone their granny... and then realise it’s 10.30 at night and that would be silly.”

Tom Wrigglesworth: Utterly at Odds with the Universe is at the Gala Theatre, Durham, on March 21. Call 0191 332 4041 or visit www.galatheatre.co.uk for tickets.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer