Tom Kay (97-07), professional actor, is currently starring in a touring production of the First World War Drama Birdsong.
In Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ best-selling novel, Tom plays the character of Stephen Wraysford, a young officer from Lincolnshire who embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with the beautiful Isabelle Azaire, which turns their worlds upside down. As war breaks out Stephen must lead his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme but he yearns for the arms and comfort of his lover. This is the story of love, courage and bravery in the face of death and heartache.
The opportunity to play this role came about whilst Tom was playing Captain Stanhope in Journey’s End, with Mesh Theatre Company, in Ypres, Belgium.
Tom says: “Alastair Whatley (Birdsong Director) had read Dominic Cavendish’s very kind review in the Telegraph, granting us five stars and came to see the play. The day I got back to London he called me in to a meeting with himself, writer Rachel Wagstaff and Madeleine Knight who had already been cast as Isabelle Azaire.
“I feel very happy to be playing this role at this point in my career, meeting Sebastian Faulks, the directors, producers and the whole team gives me confidence that we will all do the novel and Rachel’s adaptation justice.”
The play opened at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds in January and has received encouraging reviews, not least from OP Chris Pollard (98-07) and his wife who came to support Tom on the opening night.
Russell Cook, reviewer for the East Anglian Daily Times wrote: “The cast are magnificent throughout with exceptional performances particularly from Tim Treloar as the cockney tunneller “sewer rat” Jack Firebrace and the passionate lovers Tom Kay as Stephen Wraysford, and Madeleine Knight, as Isabelle Azaire”
From Pocklington School, Tom went on to study at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and like many in the entertainment industry, Tom has found carving a career as an actor to be less than straightforward.
He says: “I think I always knew this would be the case but secretly wished it would be easier, however along the way I’ve had experiences working with some people who are really great at what they do.”
In his first paid acting job out of RADA, Tom worked at the National Theatre with director Katie Mitchell and has toured in Shakespeare productions directed by Jack Shepherd, who is better known for his portrayal of Wycliffe on the television.
Tom adds: “I’ve worked alongside Matt Smith in American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre London, directed by the very stylish and cool Rupert Goold …these are a few highlights of what’s been sometimes a very busy, sometimes stagnant ten years.”
Tom’s career journey to date is perhaps typical of those in the same industry, but Tom admits that the support and encouragement he received whilst at Pocklington School and since he left, has certainly helped him along his chosen path. He credits many staff, past and present for giving him hope and encouragement.
Tom reflects: “I have a prolific collection of cards and notes from teachers, Governors and friends which I have sometimes looked back on when times have seemed difficult and their sentiments have given me the encouragement to keep going. Pocklington School has helped me a fair bit and much more than many of those involved will know.”
Tom will continue in the UK tour of Birdsong until July, playing at the York Theatre Royal 4-9 June. In the autumn he will return to Belgium to resume playing Captain Stanhope in Journey’s End.
Tom Kay is certainly one to watch for the future. For full details of the Birdsong UK tour, please click here.