HE’S only recently graduated from RADA but Tom Varey is “riding the crest of a wave” thanks to starring roles in TV shows The Village and No Offence.
But the Forest Hill-based actor is now taking on a very different character in that of boxer Ollie Olsen in Tennessee Williams’ play One Arm which has its UK premiere at the Southwark Playhouse.
The 24-year-old says it’s a dream role and has resulted in at least two items being ticked off his career bucket list.
“I love Tennessee Williams’ work,” he enthuses. “His writing is incredible and this is just a fantastic story.
“I’ve always wanted to do a Tennessee Williams play and also perform at the Southwark Playhouse so to do both at the same time is amazing!”
One Arm was originally conceived as a short story which Williams wrote in 1942. He later adapted it as a screenplay but it was considered too provocative for Hollywood in the 1960s because of its overt references to homosexuality and so was never staged – until now.
In a chat during rehearsals Tom tells me it is a dark tale about how Ollie’s career, and ultimately his life, ends after a devastating car accident.
Ollie believes his once-invincible body to be irreparably broken and so embarks on a journey which sees his life go on a downward spiral of self destruction.
“Ollie is a very complex character and the play follows his journey from the night he wins the boxing championship to the night of the car crash in which he loses an arm to what happens afterwards,” says Tom.
“We see him change a great deal over the course of the play. Before the accident he was quite a sweet naive boy but then when he loses his arm, he turns quite nasty, violent and aggressive - he feels his life is ruined.
“You have a sense that he’s a vulnerable kid who has had his career taken away from him and he tries to find work but no one wants him.
“So during the play the audience follows Ollie and his journey across America from New York to New Orleans and his different encounters with men,” adds Tom.
“It’s also a commentary on what was going on at the time with the repression of gay men. Williams was in New Orleans when he wrote this and it gives a bit of insight into his own life.
“In the end Ollie ends up on death row so it’s a bit bleak, almost like a Greek tragedy as fate is set out before him.”
Despite this, Tom says he can’t wait to bring it to UK audiences though he does admit to a few nerves.
“For an actor Ollie is a gift role because every scene is full of drama, humour, intense sadness, emotion and tension,” he says.
“Losing the arm was tricky but you’ll have to come to see it to see how we manage that!
“It’s such a great story though and so beautifully written that I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done in the UK before so it’s very exciting to be part of something so special.
“I graduated last year so to get a role this size and in London is a massive dream. Southwark Playhouse is such a cool place and does a lot of good work so I’m feeling nervous, plus it’s also the UK premiere and I will be the one introducing Ollie for the first time but it’s massively exciting."
One Arm is at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway from June 10 to July 4. Tickets cost £18. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.