Tom Babbage on Fun at the Beach Romp-Bom-A-Lomp!! at Southwark Playhouse

It’s a hot, sunny day at the beach and everyone is gearing up for a competition that will change (or end) their lives forever: the legendary Beach Romp-Bomp-a-Lomp!! Recently opened at Southwark Playhouse, and set to energetic parodies of iconic retro hits, Grease meets Squid Game in the brand new musical comedy.

Featured in the cast is Tom Babbage who plays Joe. Babbage’s theatre credits include the recent West End transfer of The Motive and the Cue and touring productions of Cluedo, The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

We caught up with him to find out more about this unique new show.

Q&A with Tom Babbage

What can you tell us about Fun at the Beach Romp-Bomp-A-Lomp!?

It’s a wild ride! The show takes place on a hot, sunny day at the beach and centres around a competition, the much anticipated ‘Beach Romp-Bomp-A-Lomp!!’, with the winner being crowned King or Queen of the Beach. But some of the challenges aren’t as simple as they seem, and will the enthusiastic characters find true love amidst the sand, beachballs and assorted collection of popular retro song parodies? Martin Landry and Brandon Lambert have done an incredible job at putting together a show that’s both recognisable and completely fresh.

What was it that drew you to the production?

Working with Director, Mark Bell is always a treat! I’ve been fortunate to work with him on some really fun stuff before, so when he’s involved, I know it’ll be a hoot. But also, I think this style of comedy really appeals to me, and it’s so much fun to do. It’s a real credit to the writers for taking some risks and playing on the tropes of what makes a conventional musical, whilst fully committing to the style and understanding exactly what is needed, both narratively and musically.

Jack Whittle (Dude), Tom Babbage (Joe) and Damien James (Dickie). Photo: Danny Kaan

How have you approached your role in the show?

Joe, the character I play, is nervous, clumsy and riddled with social anxiety, so luckily not too much of a stretch for me. But genuinely, it’s been great fun, and the benefit of having the writers in the room with us means that throughout the rehearsal process we’ve been able to add and adapt things as we go. I’m also very lucky to be working with such an incredible cast who are so playful and receptive to new ideas, plus a brilliant stage management team and tech crew who continue to work tirelessly to make the ridiculous things we’re doing look good.

How was the rehearsal period?

One of the reasons I really enjoy working with Mark Bell is the focus on improvisation. The majority of our first week was spent on various exercises and games intended to help us flesh out every aspect of our characters; from physicality and mannerisms, to how they interact with others and react in certain situations. Whilst improvisation is great fun, it’s also a brilliant way to start exploring character because it helps us react in the moment, without inhibitions, which often leads to more interesting and instinctive choices. As I write this we’re in preview performances and there are still changes or alterations being made daily; we’re able to see which bits work or which gags land, and if there are sections that aren’t getting the reaction we want then we fine-tune them before the next show and try again.

Damien James (Dickie), Jack Whittle (Dude) and Tom Babbage (Joe). Photo: Danny Kaan

Is there anything you hope audiences take away from the show?

I know I’m in it, but if I wasn’t in it (even though I am) I would definitely want to go and see it, and see someone who wasn’t me in it, in it and I’d really enjoy it, as much as I’m really enjoying being in it, which I am, and I’m really enjoying it.

Apart from leaving with a collection of friendly earworms thanks to the maddeningly catchy songs, I’m mainly hoping that everyone who comes will just have a cracking night out. I think if people are looking to be distracted or take some time away from the real world, then this is the ideal thing to see. An hour and a half of snappy, deliciously clever music and a wonderfully self-aware story.

Fun at the Beach Romp-Bomp-A-Lomp is at Southwark Playhouse (Borough) until 22 June 2024

Read our review of the show here