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Playwright, Kieran Hurley, Interview: “You never really know if the play works until a proper audience meets it.”

Kieran Hurley

Kieran Hurley

Kieran Hurley is a writer, performer, and theatre maker based in Glasgow. Past work includes Heads Up (Show & Tell), Rantin (National Theatre of Scotland), Beats (The Arches), Chalk Farm (co-written with AJ Taudevin, Oran Mor/ ThickSkin). Awards include Best New Play, Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) 2017 for Heads Up, and 2012 for Beats. Kieran is a former recipient of the Pearson Playwrights Award (now the Channel 4 Playwrights Scheme) for which he spent a year as writer-in-residence at the National Theatre of Scotland.

Kieran is trying to get the theatre company, Permanent Red, off the ground alongside Artistic Director Alex Swift & Executive Producer Annabel Turpin. Permanent Red’s mission is to make accessible, playful, rigorously political work across forms and genres and to provide alternative spaces for living, thinking and feeling in the contemporary world. His new play: ‘An Injury’ is about violence, love, the distance between us, and the harm we do to each other.

For various reasons I had to switch the day of our phone chat. It turned out to be a blessing, though, as Kieran had a fiasco with an Air BnB booking.

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to catch up with Kieran to see exactly what’s happening. The conversation was quite serious-face. I have been assured by Kieran’s PR that he ‘is a darling’, so maybe he just didn’t appreciate my journalistic style.

Here’s the chat, in which I really try very hard not to go down the route of asking about David Mamet but end up doing it anyway.

Hi Kieran, have you got your accommodation issue all sorted now with Air BnB?
Sorry? … I thought this was an interview about my play.

Yes, I like to start interviews with a bit of a chat. 
Ok. Well, I had an issue with my accommodation and now it is sorted.

Right you are… Do you want to tell me about your play then? 
It’s formally something that is quite challenging – it’s been a hard thing to write  – for that reason. It feels like from the very earliest conversations – we were dealing with some big difficult ideas in the society we live in just now. The form needed to be quite bold. Wrestling with the scale. It’s been challenging; sitting down to rewrite drafts has scared me. That’s a good and exciting interesting place to be. I’m fiercely proud of the work but I have no idea how people are going to respond to it.

Ovalhouse do great things don’t they.
They seem to programme interesting work. This is a debut production company by Permanent Red. Ovalhouse have been very supportive of Alex’s (Swift) work.

You have quite a diverse and exciting cast, don’t-
What do you mean by diverse?

I mean that they are a real vibrant mixture of people from all walks of life. It looks exciting…
We have some really good and interesting people for sure. They make a great room and there is an immense privilege in having such smart, skilled and compassionate people. Each one of them brings something to the work and I hold each of those actors in the highest regard.

Where did ‘An Injury’ come from? 
I had a hunger to see on stage and on screen, work that grappled thoroughly and honestly with how the world is just now. With the hurt and difficulty, the world is built on. It comes from a place of need for stories and forms of stories which try and grapple with that.

So, what would success look like for you with this production?
That’s a good question. Success in this production would look like… It would look like it’s holding the room. People taking that conversation away with them out into their lives. There’s all sort of ways we can interpret success. The value of it is so hard to measure. You never really know if the play works until a proper audience meets it.

What do you make of David Mamet’s decision to issue a $25,000 fine on theatres that stage post-play discussions of his work? 
David Mamet is entitled to add whatever conditions he wants around the discussion of his plays. However, I think it is impossible to impose an embargo to that context to that sort of thing in a post show Q&A. You have to embrace people who want to talk about the work. I don’t have a huge amount else to say about it.

Okay. What are your hopes for An Injury beyond the short run?
We don’t have anything tangible at present. My hope always is that that short run will serve a bigger future for the work. It’s the nature of the beast with the industry we work in. Fingers crossed.

An Injury by Kieran Hurley, directed by Alex Swift is on at Ovalhouse Tue 18 Jul – Sat 22 Jul, 7:30pm T: 020 7582 7680