J o e  T a p p e r

"Its either Sondheim or Ghetts." Read our interview with writer and performer Joe Tapper below...

Joe! So lovely to have you here, we’re so excited to talk to you today.


So, we’re gonna kick off the interview with some quick-fire questions to get warmed up... firstly, what are you watching right now?


I am watching Season 2 of The Afterparty, I’ve just watched season 3 of Derry Girls, which was obviously amazing. And my rec would be Sherwood, just finished that – watch that, it’s amazing. The best thing I’ve watched I think, this year, on TV. Oh, and The Bear! You’ve got to watch that, its insanely good. And its in a style like no one else has done, which is so satisfying.


Gorgeous! So, next Q. What music serenades your commute currently?


Musical Theatre Cast Recordings. Just across the board.


Any musical in particular tickling you at the moment?


Yeah, Merrily We Roll Along. That and then… Grime. It's either Sondheim or Ghetts.


Fantastic, two ends of the spectrum there! Last quick-fire, any books on the go?


Yeah, Strong Female Character by Fern Brady. That’s really good, that’s a big rec. I just read a book called The Secret Life of the American Musical (Jack Viertel), that was really good, very interesting. Oh, and a book called Consolations by David Whyte. (Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words).


We know that book! It’s very good.


It’s a really good book. And it’s a great, like, what am I into right now, let’s dip in, let's bathe in some poetic wonderfulness and then I can sleep, you know?


Gorgeous! Well, tell us a bit about yourself Joe and how you got into your creative endeavours?


So, grew up in South-West Devon, and kind of did every bit of drama stuff you could do, which down there is am-dram, musical theatre and pantomimes. And then, always enjoyed being on the stage, probably because I got to be seen and clapped at. And then, went to drama school, as you know, but the shift came… the part of me that was interested in all of that for being looked at – mellowed - through age and therapy, and so I became more interested in the creative stuff. And I’d always done that, when I looked back I was always wanting to write musicals or writing little poems, or writing stories and stuff, that was always happening. And I don’t know if that started just coz I was, like, precocious… but I also think it was because I was very sensitive. I realise, only now really, how sensitive I am and I think that was always trying to bubble out somewhere.


So then, end of secondary school and drama school helped make it a bit more serious. It was like, okay, this is a thing you could actually do… if you put your energy in that way you can receive certain responses. And that was true of both performing, but then being brave enough to go and work out these creative things, maybe I could put those out there… And then, when opportunities like this come up, it’s a real validation of that choice. 'Oh, if I throw my energy in this direction, look at this wonderful thing that I get back out of that'. And not just what I get back out of that, but what a wonderful thing to be a part of, to experience, you know? I’m into it, the collective, experience stuff. But any answer kind of sounds wanky the more I go into it… any question to do with creativity or Art or, like, making…


We get what you mean. It’s hard to talk about Art!


I also think that, being candid, my Mum passed away when I was 6 and my Dad tried his best, and he’s a great guy, but not an entirely amazing parent. My sister did what she could, but there is certainly a link between that kind of depth of feeling and depth of grief, and the seeking of connection, love, experience, all that kind of stuff you know? And I think I was into drama, or being loud, or being on stage, or whatever, even at 6 before that had happened… but I do definitely think that, you know, in my head, I can draw a pretty straight line in a dot to dot between those events and it makes sense.  


Thank you, Joe. What is your work about and who inspires you / what inspires you?


I think my work ends up being about either me, and what I feel/think, what I’m going through or have been through… or connects to Mum in some way, or connects to me and my Dad. The more I look at stuff I’m like ‘this is me and my Dad, this is the thing that’s coming out there’ that tends to crop up quite a lot, so I’m noticing that pattern.


What it’s about… I’m kind of not entirely sure. I’m really interested in accessibility – and that’s partly selfishly, I want people to be able to understand these experiences that I have – and it partly selflessly, like, how can we articulate these experiences for all those grandiose aims of, like, helping people realise that we share more than we don’t, and that kind of stuff. How can we use that as a unifying tool…?


So, I’m really interested in ‘okay what’s the bridging thing here? How can we use that thing that we all know and shift it, or come at it in a new light?’. That tends to be the objective with a lot of the stuff I end up being involved in.


Who inspires me… anyone where I’m like ‘oh my god’ in the audience… A lot of musical theatre people. Sondheim, Sondheim endlessly actually. Tim Minchin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, those kind of people. Then like, Mary Oliver, Phillip Larkin and David Whyte…. George Watsky, who’s a poet-rapper. And sometimes the Grime artists I’m listening to, I’m like ‘fuck, that’s so good’ because it’s so impressively like poetry, so impressively dense. They’ve got about six things in there in about ten seconds, you know? It has motifs and reprises’ and all that kind of stuff.


We love that. Clever stuff. What would be your advice for someone who wants to do a bit more writing?


Have you seen that Bo Burnham interview where he goes "I’d say, just take a deep breath… and give up”. (laughs) ‘Coz so much of it is luck. But no, my actual answer is… stay open, take your time, absorb loads of shit so you get inspired in ways you wouldn’t realise – that’s not just the thing that your writing – go and do stuff, or read stuff or whatever. And then my advice is, sit down and try and write, then have a shower or go for a walk, and your brain will get all the good ideas when you go and do that. You have to at least tried to put your mind to it first, before your brain will actually allow you to have all the epiphanies half way through a shower, or when you’re near a tree or something.


Perfect. Okay, last question – what’s next?


Right now – a bath and sleep - I’m so excited! (laughs)


I’m working on a musical with my friend Natalie, called Polly which is about polyamory. And we’re very excited about it. We’ve done a work-in-progress, and it was received really well and gave us loads of stuff to work on. Lots of stuff we already knew, we were like, ‘Yep. Turns out we were right to think that’. And hopefully, we will have another work-in-progress date this winter. That’s our hope, so definitely that. We have an Instagram called Dirks & Tapper (@dirksandtapper), that I have nothing to do with, but I suppose I should…


We can share that for you Joe!


So yeah, that’s the big project.

We’re so impressed you're writing a musical. Thanks so much for talking to us Joe. Enjoy your bath!



Follow them @joewtapper


Their new musical @dirksandtapper

Thank you @gstillmoment for their beaut picture