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Interview with Dave Kirby 2010

Dave Kirby

Since Liverpool hosted the European Capital of Culture festivities in 2008, things have been non-stop for playwright Dave Kirby.  The continued popularity of his debut play, two new productions at the city’s Royal Court theatre, a successful film surrounding his beloved football team and a well received BBC Radio play have all helped cement the writer’s potential to rank alongside other Scouse writing legends, Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale.

Sitting in Exchange Flags enjoying the sun and sharing a coffee, Dave reflects on the reasons behind his successes. ‘I was only saying the other day that, although it was obviously great for the city to get the kind of positive exposure it did through Capital of Culture year, on a personal level the Company behind it did nothing for me or helped in any way to get my work established.  I mean, you only have to look at the brochure and see that The Royal Court shows – and there was some great stuff put on that year – don’t even feature in it. Another thing is how can two of Liverpool’s most famous exponents of theatre, Willy and Alan, have their work ignored by a company that by its very name is supposed to promote the city’s culture? A lot of it is to do with elitism and I totally disagree with it. Okay, I was the only playwright to have three plays on in the city during the year and I am really proud of that, but nevertheless I was still annoyed with the Culture Company because of their lack of support.

‘A lot of it what’s happened to my career as a writer is down to the fact that the Royal Court’s management offered that support by standing alone and regularly and consistently providing what’s been termed as Populist theatre. The first job of any theatre in my opinion is to entertain and that’s the ethos that lies behind everything the Royal Court team try to do; to give the punters what they want and to entertain them.’
And entertainment is certainly what Kirby supplies. His smash hit comedy musical, Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels, co-written with fellow Liverpool writer Nicky Allt, highlighted his talents and allowed him to sail his own ship after years of writing scripts, prose and poetry with more limited success. Now his second solo play, Council Depot Blues, is running again at The Royal Court and Dave couldn’t be happier about seeing his show return. 

‘The thing about writing is that you have to know your audience and the theme of the play has to be something the audience recognises. There are a lot of comedy plays around that are essentially a stream of one-liners strung together, Brick Up included, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it works. With my writing, I wanted to start delving a little bit deeper, first of all with Lost Soul and then still further with Council Depot Blues, which has a theme throughout that’s basically one of despair.

‘You’ve got this group of lads who are all desperate to escape a working environment they’re never going to escape, and all I’ve done is disguised that desperation with humour and slapstick because that’s what the real lads who work in such terrible jobs have to do in order to face what they face on a daily basis. I know, because I did the exact same job for years and hated every minute of it.’

The driving force of the play is the journey of Old Stan, who for years has wanted to get out. Now that he’s working his last day for the House Clearance department of the council, he’s terrified of actually leaving because he knows that it’s all he has ... his work and his workmates.  In a way, it’s almost as though he’s been institutionalised as each of his dreams has withered and died before his eyes. Similarly, Danny, played by Andrew Schofield, knows he has a talent and he also knows that if he’s not careful he’ll end up exactly the same way as Stan; a thought that petrifies him.

‘The ironic thing is that, when I’d written it, I realised Danny was actually me and it’s probably why I appreciate what I do now so much because I’ve experienced that despair of being in a dead end job,’ Dave explained.

Council Depot Blues‘ It’s quite profound I suppose, but I’m always conscious of not going too far because I know what it is the audience at The Royal Court want and that is to laugh, which I hope they will as much this time around as they did originally. We’ve changed a couple of things, dropped a couple of bits and pieces and added a few bits and pieces, so now it runs a lot quicker and smoother than it did, but essentially it is still the same show.’

Since first staging Council Depot Blues, Dave has taken a break from writing for theatre and concentrated on writing movie scripts, not least of which has been the smash hit DVD, 15 Minutes That Shook The World, a satirical account of what may have been said in the dressing room at half time in Istanbul in May, 2005. The film stars Neil Fitzmaurice and features appearances by Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher amongst others and so successful has it been, Dave is currently busy writing and producing a follow up that chronicles the fans side of things.

‘We shot 15 Minutes on a shoestring budget and I can’t stress enough the “know your audience” cliché again. We knew who was going to watch it, but even so the response it’s received has been unbelievable and gone down a storm in places like New York, where it won the Entertainment Award at the Tribeca Festival, funded by Robert de Niro.

‘The two biggest football fan bases in New York are Liverpool and Manchester United, so to see loads of ex-pat Reds in the audience all having a ball was great fun. I started scriptwriting for TV years ago, but it’s pretty much a closed shop and really hard to get into so I turned to the stage instead. We set up Miracle Productions to make, 15 Minutes That Shook The World which we produced in association with North Star films run by the Fitzmaurice brothers, Neil & Tony.  15 Minutes has become the fastest selling DVD in Liverpool FC’s history, which is fantastic  not only for me as a writer but also as a supporter, and has financed the new one which is a spin off called Reds, Blues, Battles and Booze (The Ballad of Dixie & Kenny) which I am producing myself – it will be available on DVD by the end of the year. There are a few more cameos from footy players past and present, but this time there are few Evertonians in the mix as well so the banter is going to be something else.’

But despite the success of his films, Dave is adamant about one thing and that is a return to writing for the stage. ‘I’ve got a few ideas knocking about and once things slow down a bit with the films I’ll be cracking on with them. One is a Christmas play which I’m looking forward to toying about with, but that’s for the future.  For now I’m delighted that Council Depot Blues is back on stage at The Royal Court and I hope the audiences get as much of a kick out of seeing it again as I will.’

Chris High

Chris and Helen with Jude and Dave Kirby

Chris and Helen with Jude and Dave Kirby

 


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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