I studied theatre at university, in Coleraine. When I left, I came back to Belfast and set up a theatre company and a theatre festival for young theatre companies around the island of Ireland. After a couple of years doing that I was asked to come to London to work with stand-up comics putting together solo shows for the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. I started as a director but quickly became a writer/director. I would work with comedians to create shows particular to their talents. I say all this because I can’t help myself. I have to tell a story. I can’t just start where I’ve been asked. You have to know how I got there.
I left writing for the stage many years ago so it was a surprise to me that I ended up writing for it again, more than a couple of decades later. The lockdown made strange beasts out of some of us. I sat down to write a short story, a form I’ve been working with for a quite a few years now, and in the oddness of lockdown, a short story was not what came out of me onto the page. I thought, as an experiment, I’d keep going a see how it turned out. Big Man is how it turned out.
There’s another piece of the story. I met Tony Flynn through mutual friends. We had both moved back to Belfast after many years working away – he Dublin, me London. Both arty types, both working-class. Both gay, both of a certain age. We became instant friends. Tony read two stories of mine on BBC Radio 4 and I had seen him in wonderful shows with the Belfast Ensemble. I’m sure this was the other reason what I was writing became a play, and absolutely, I wrote it for Tony. I guess, I was doing what I had done with comedians in the past, creating a solo show for that performer. Now my preamble of an introduction makes sense and am left with no nagging narrative doubts.
After many years away from writing for the stage I hadn’t thought of the repercussions. Primarily, the thing that sends shivers through my stomach, is that I’ll be in the room with people as they react to what I’ve written, and may of them at the same time (hopefully). I’ve gotten so used hiding away, getting reactions from a distance and piecemeal. I’m not sure how I’ll take it. I’m considering a disguise.