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Interview with Arthur Riordan – Kings of the Kilburn High Road

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The Kings of the Kilburn High Road – Gaiety Theatre – 1 November 2016 – 12 November 2016

Written by Jimmy Murphy | Directed by Padraic McIntyre
Starring – Phelim Drew, Malcolm Adams, Arthur Riordan, Seamus O’Rourke & Charlie Bonner

We had the chance to talk to writer and actor Arthur Riordan (Writer of The Train & Rap Eire with Des Bishop). He is one of the lead actors in Kings of the Kilburn High Road which opens in the Gaiety next week. You can see the results below.

This play is about emigration to England in the 70s. Do you think modern audiences still feel its relevance?

Easy question! We toured ‘Kings’ earlier this year and the response was phenomenal, and, it’s fair to say, very moving for all of us. All over the country, audience members were keen to tell us that this was either their story, or the story of close friends or relatives. That 70s/80s wave of emigration still casts a very real shadow over countless thousands of Irish lives. The present-day wave is significantly different of course, with better supports, and conveniences such as skype, but there’s still that separation, that rupture of the family, and of course parents will always fear that their children aren’t sufficiently equipped for life in an alien environment. But I think what Jimmy’s achieved with this play transcends the particulars. This is a story that speaks to everyone.

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This production has toured previously, before coming to the Gaiety. Do you have to change anything in the production for working in such a large space?

Of course a few technical adjustments will need to be made, but nothing major, and obviously nothing beyond our scope! For one thing, the play is set in a public house, where all conversations tend to be, well, public. These are five big personalities knocking against each other, and nothing they say is ever sotto voce; it’s all put out there for general consumption. And given that it progresses from rowdy banter to violent rows, this could never be described as a dainty chamber piece. In the venues we’ve played before now, ‘Kings’ packed an intense punch. The challenge in the Gaiety is to deliver that punch with the same intensity but with a slightly longer reach, and that’s a challenge we all relish.

There is an impressive cast, with Phelim Drew, Seamus O’Rourke, Charlie Bonner, Malcolm Adams and yourself. How has it been working together?

An interesting thing about Irish theatre – it’s a small scene, and everyone pretty much knows everyone else, yet you can go for years or even decades knowing and liking certain actors, but never getting the chance to work with them. ‘Kings’ ticks off a fair percentage of my wish-list. I’d worked with Phelim a couple of times in the dim and distant, and Malcolm gave a brilliant performance in a play I wrote a few years ago; I’d worked with Seamus only once before and though I’ve known Charlie for years, we’d never worked together, so it was a real pleasure getting the measure of the other cast members, trying stuff out, calibrating each other’s responses, all that. These guys are all great old hands at ensemble playing. There are no big egos, or, maybe more accurately, we all have big enough egos that we’re comfortable enough accommodating everyone else’s.

A crucial element in all this is Padraic McIntyre. He’s the right kind of director, a facilitator rather than a tyrant, and he has an acute eye for the minutiae – the little moments and interactions that ground a performance in reality, as well as a great ear for the big build and the telling silence.

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You work as both a writer and an actor. Have you any preference between the two? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?

The big advantage of writing is that it gives you a sense of control, however illusory, that you seldom feel as an actor. But with acting, I like how condensed it all is: just a few weeks rehearsal, then the unbelievable intensity of an opening night. Writing is rewarding in all sorts of other ways, but it never provides that drug-like rush, and that’s a rush I don’t want to turn my back on. Realistically though, I’ve had an awful lot more recognition for the few things I’ve written than for all the parts I’ve played. So rather than get into a long and infinitely uninteresting debate with myself, let’s say I think that the two activities feed into each other quite nicely.

The Train was one of the highlights of the DTF 2015, where it had a brief run. Is there any talk of the production coming back onto our stages?

Yes there is. Watch this space.

What are you working on next?

Ah, now. A guard wouldn’t ask me that!

 

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Categories: Header, interview, Theatre

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