Opera, comedy and sport: Former pupils in the news

Several of the School’s former pupils have been making national headlines in recent times for outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

Freddie De Tommaso (WH 06-11) continues his meteoric ascent in the opera world; Will Hislop (WH 06-11) is earning critical praise for his various roles as an actor, writer and stand-up comedian; while Ben Earl (JH 11-16), pictured right, and Zak Crawley (WH 11-16), who knew each other well while at Tonbridge, have continued to attract the national spotlight in their sporting careers. 

Freddie De Tommaso has signed a recording contract with Decca, at the age of 28, and his album, Passione, is due to be released on 9 April.

Opera Now writes: “De Tommaso has already proved his worth as a singer and excels in the great tenor roles of Verdi and Puccini. He is a young artist who holds onto opera’s traditional values, inspired by great singers of the past and learning his craft as he treads the boards with the stars of today.”

Freddie also received a hugely enthusiastic mention from Alexander Armstrong on his recent Classic FM show. “Freddie is a bright name for the future and even talking about his singing is giving me goosebumps,” the presenter told listeners. (To listen, go to Friday 29th January, from 01:40:30.) 

Will Hislop featured in The Times on Saturday 30 January as part of an article about emerging new talent in the comedy world, entitled “How Will Hislop, Kieran Hodgson and Flora Anderson became the nation’s lockdown jokers”. The piece mentions Will’s roles in a new BBC comedy, Dreaming Whilst Black, and a film, Touchdown; a guest role in the ITV detective series Grantchester; and his plans to develop his own character comedy show.

He is one half of the critically acclaimed, Edinburgh Fringe Festival sell-out sketch group, Giants, and has also been written about in Tatler. The magazine commented he had “the mischief of Matt Lucas and the boyband appeal of Harry Styles”, and that Will “appears to be really hitting his comic stride”.  

Emerging rugby star Ben Earl is expected to feature for England in the Six Nations Championship, which starts on Saturday 6 February. An article about Ben appeared in the Sunday Times on 31 January, with the heading “Latin ‘fan’, chess addict … and he can play rugby a bit too”. 

The article, by David Walsh, included comments from the School’s Director of Sport, Chris Morgan. It states: “At Tonbridge School, Earl had the opportunity to play a lot of rugby and cricket. He excelled at both. Zak Crawley, now a top-order batsman with England, was a classmate and close friend. They both played age-grade cricket for Kent.”

“For short spells Ben could bowl fast,” Morgan says. “And as you can imagine, he hit the ball a long way. But he was quite a refined batsman. There was subtlety as well as power.”

Ben adds: “It was rugby in the winter, cricket in the summer, balancing the two. Then I got picked at under-16 level for England rugby and I realised I couldn’t do it part-time any more. I think I was fortunate to end up at the same school as Zak Crawley. We’re very close. When we were at school, I would have regarded myself as a little way off his level.”

A Times subscription will be needed to read the full article. 

Zak Crawley is currently with the England Test cricket squad in India, having established himself in the national side in 2020. Zak opened the batting in both Tests earlier this year in Sri Lanka and took four catches in the Second Test as England wrapped up the series.

He is currently sidelined after suffering a wrist injury, which means he will miss at least the first two Tests in India. Last year Zak won both the PCA (Professional Cricketers' Association) Young Player of the Year award and the CWC (Cricket Writers' Club) Young Cricketer of the Year award.  

Pictured above: Ben Earl playing for England.

Pictured below, from top: Freddie De Tommaso; Will Hislop (Photograph by Michael Wharley); and Zak Crawley.