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Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Before 30

Tom Hartwell

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Venue: Underbelly Cowgate


Low Down

Tom has just turned 29 years of age and given that his life is centred around living in a tent in a garage in London, things are not stunningly positive for him. His job is as a Deliveroo biker and he feels that a relationship is currently and most likely in the future beyond him, so all of his life is not peachy. His approach to delivery, via a Boris bike and Hello Kitty helmet brings little by way of reward and after a close call where he was delivering drugs, raced to escape and then was knocked over, he revaluated and went to Nepal; as you might. The Nepalese trip came after taking as many shifts as he could to fund the trip. It did not go as he had hoped and after trying to get to climb Everest with little more than shorts and well worn trainers, he returns to the UK to try, try and try again. The death of his grandfather and the funeral brings peace in ways he had never imagined and now the time has come to contemplate what realistically comes next.


Tom Hartwell has written a gentle reflection on life and the expectations that come with it. Musing on the way in which expectations are gathered and turned into pressure we heap upon ourselves, as we meet many “Janices” who turn up at various points in our lives to ask us what we are doing, who we are seeing and what big things are happening – all with a knowing look of disappointment – he has captured the angst of his time. As we see the disappointment in their eyes and the latest episode of “Felcity and James” is given as an example of what could be possible if only we were successful, yet another moment in Tom’s life is snatched from him feeling like he is doing OK to terrible disappointment.

From dealing with the disappointment of seeing a Starbucks at the foot of Everest (I have been in one in the Forbidden City, Beijing) to the further disappointment of Tinder, Hartwell is an engaging presence with a gentle attitude to life. There is little by way of outrage throughout though there is, disappointment, a heck of a lot of disappointment.

The script has some way to go to build up a head of steam but once we get into the night that he was nearly arrested, it does begin to motor. The move to Nepal is deftly handled but there is not enough angst to create moments of real tension. The moral outrage feels as though it sits on the surface as someone raging that they forgot the chili flakes on their avocado on toast rather than feeling hard done to by the over commercialization of the greatest natural physical presence in the world.

The flow does dip at times and this is partly due to the combination of gentile expression coupled with the lack of some pace within the direction.

It is at its most effective when there is pathos. Whilst it could be argued, and I would agree, that such times are built towards and require that gentility to get you to a place where the pathos works, they are few and far between.

Technically all works well though some other lighting effects for … effect … would truly help the atmosphere; but the venue is not well suited to that

There’s a lot to commend this piece of theatre and the performance never lets you down – its dependable. In terms of challenging orthodoxy around what people ought to be doing by their late 20’s there is little offered as radical thought but what we do get is a really nice play about a really nice set of circumstances until grandad pops off and we get a really nice ending.


Show Website

Tom Hartwell