Time and Tide is a touching LGBT comic drama which examines the lives of a Norfolk community struggling with change and is having its premiere at the Park Theatre. Set in a crumbling cafe on the end of Cromer Pier, we meet lesbian May the cafe owner, budding actor Nemo and his unrequited love Daz, who works at the cafe, and who is burying his head in the sand over his best friend leaving town. We asked writer James McDermott to tell us more about the homoerotic friendship at the play’s heart.
What is the story of Time and Tide?
Time and Tide follows May who has to decide whether or not to sell her crumbling caff on the end of Cromer Pier as she’s no longer making money due to newly arrived chain shops in the town stealing her customers. Her delivery man Ken who is losing customers to Costa also has to decide whether or not to sell up; May’s head waiter Nemo has to decide whether or not to leave Norfolk to tread the boards in London; and May’s pot wash Daz has to decide whether or not to try and stop his best mate Nemo leaving him behind. The play is an LGBTQ themed comedy drama about a little community struggling with change set against the backdrop of a country struggling with change.
Who are the actors in the play?
Wendy Nottingham (Peaky Blinders, Vera Drake, Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas) plays May, Paul Easom (Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s The Girls) plays Ken, Josh Barrow (Silk Road) plays Nemo and Elliot Liburd (Bismillah: The ISIS Tragicomedy) plays Daz. I am chuffed to be working with such a talented cast, especially Wendy Nottingham as she’s worked with my writing heroes Victoria Wood, Jonathan Harvey and Mike Leigh so it’s an honour to work with and learn from her.
We understand there is a gay romance in there too?
At the heart of the play is a homoerotic friendship between Nemo and Daz. Nemo has always been in love with his straight best mate Daz and Daz is unsure whether what he feels for Nemo is just a bromance or something more. The character of May is lesbian and part of the reason she’s selling her cafe on the end of Cromer Pier is so she can move in with her girlfriend in her Suffolk static home.
Growing up gay in rural England, I felt like a ghost no one believed in as rural LGBTQ lives were rarely represented onstage. I wanted gay romances to be at the heart of Time and Tide so I could assert and celebrate rural queer lives in the hope of helping people like me feel less invisible and encouraging people unlike me to reassess how they perceive rural LGBTQ lives.
Time and Tide is based in Cromer which most people think of as a quiet, older people’s seaside resort – is it more than that?
Most people think of Cromer as a quiet older people’s seaside resort and whilst that’s partly true, Cromer is also a vibrant town full of young people, great eateries, pubs, theatres, museums and independent shops. Whilst there are no specific LGBTQ venues in the town, Cromer Pier Theatre regularly programmes drag performers and from Cromer, it’s only a forty five minute train ride to Norwich where there are several gay pubs and clubs.
Can you tell us about your favourite places in Cromer?
My favourite place in Cromer is The Red Lion Pub on the seafront. I love going there for a pint of elderflower pale ale with my best friend Mark after a mince on the beach and a swim in the sea. It’s the cosiest pub with the cutest barmen and the most beautiful view!
Did you base May’s cafe on a real location?
May’s cafe is based on Wells Deli Holt, a Norfolk cafe that I worked in from 2016-2019. Working there, I became aware of how independent businesses in Norfolk are losing trade due to the arrival of chain shops in their towns and the fact that many coastal places are empty for most of the year due to Norfolk’s holiday home culture. I wrote Time and Tide partly to assert and interrogate the problems faced by independent businesses in my county.
It must be very exciting to bring this story of Cromer into London and the Park Theatre?
East Anglia and rural LGBTQ lives are rarely represented on London stages so it’s very exciting to bring Time and Tide to London’s Park Theatre. I’ve been rewriting and developing the play for four years so I’m chuffed that it’s finally found a home and I can’t wait to share the play with audiences.
What else are you working on?
I’m currently writing new LGBTQ themed plays for Hampstead Theatre, HighTide and Norwich Playhouse. With co-commissioners Norwich Theatre Royal and Norwich Arts Centre, I’m about to tour the UK with CAMP, my new comedy cabaret play which makes a song and dance about the tabloid media’s silence on the state-sanctioned anti-gay purges in Chechnya. In July, Burning Eye Books are publishing ‘Manatomy’, my debut poetry collection which explores how nature, nurture, politics, pop culture and prejudice have shaped my identity as a camp gay man. ‘Manatomy’ will be accompanied by book launches in Norfolk and London and a UK tour of a performance poetry show.