Playwright Jimmy Murphy is a former writer in residence at NUI Maynooth and a member of the Abbey Theatre’s Honorary Advisory Council. He is a recipient of 3 Bursaries in Literature from the Arts Council and was elected a member of Aosdána in 2004.
His stage plays include Brothers of the Brush, A Picture of Paradise,The Muesli Belt, The Kings of the Kilburn High Road, The Castlecomer, Jukebox and What’s Left of The Flag, which was nominated for Best New Play 2010 Irish Times Theatre Awards.
Jimmy has just completed Of This Brave Time, adapted from the book Rebels: Voices from the Easter Rising by Ferghal McGarry for the Abbey Theatre as part of their 1916 centenary commemorations. A new one-act play The Kiss will be premiered by Bewley’s Café Theatre in 2015.
We’re delighted that Jimmy will direct our 3-Day Writing for Theatre Workshop during Listowel Writers’ Week in May.
A. When I discovered, through Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come that you could write about your own world and streets. That the everyday stories and people you encountered could be made into theatre.
Q. Who were the major influences in your life growing up?
A. I’d no influences really. When I got into writing in my 20s I looked to Dublin writers such as Seán O’Casey and Brendan Behan. That then led me into the literary revival of the 1950s and the writers of that era, particularly seeing how much Behan used the working class as his raw material to forge stories and plays.
Q. Did you make a conscious decision to become a playwright as opposed to a novelist or poet?
A. There was no actual decision, I just feel driven to write. For me it was dialogue.
Q. What is it about playwriting that particularly appeals to you? What are its challenges?
A. I am driven to write plays. The challenges are that there are days when you wish you weren’t a writer, particularly after finishing a new play. The mental exhaustion you feel at the end of maybe 2 years work and the realisation that you have to start all over again, that you have to search for another story to tell.
Q. What motivates you to write?
A. I think if you need to be motivated to write you should quit as a writer. Motivation doesn’t come into it for me, I’m driven to write. I write when there’s no motivation. I have to.
A. I look for contradictions in life. I look for events that lead to a tragic ending and then I write backwards.
Q. Who are your favourite playwrights?
A. Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill are two playwrights I go back to and reread. Everything you need to know about playwrighting and life is in Death of a Salesman and The Iceman Cometh.
Q. Briefly, what will you be covering in your Writing for Theatre Workshop?
A. How to structure a play, how to end each act, how to finish a play and then – once you’ve written your first draft, how you begin the task of tearing it all asunder and re-writing it all again and again, and again.
Q. You have visited Listowel Writers’ Week before. What were your impressions?
A. I enjoyed the workshops and sharing ideas. For me that’s what’s most appealing – passing on what I’ve learned along the way.
We look forward to welcoming Jimmy back to Listowel in May for what is sure to be a very interesting and thought provoking Workshop.
You can book a place here