An interview with Thomas Kilroy, writer of Double Cross

Described as one of Ireland’s most inspirational playwrights, Thomas Kilroy has been keeping a keen eye on the latest production of his 1986 play Double Cross.  We took the opportunity to ask him some questions about the play…


What inspired you to write the play?

Some time in the early days of Field Day Brian Friel and Stephen Rea came to my home in County Mayo and asked me to write a play for the company. I had just written a radio play about Brendan Bracken for the BBC. I told them that I was now thinking about a stage play bringing in a second man William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw. I told Stephen that I had in mind that both parts would be played by the same actor. Yes, I told him, I had been thinking of him to play both parts. It was a long afternoon of intense conversation. By the time Brian and Stephen left for home I had the shape of the play in my head.


When researching Bracken and Joyce, what similarities and/or differences struck you most about their characters?

The thing that attracted my interest was that both of them were Irish and that the Irishness was what drove them to such extremes. They were also contemporaries at a time when Ireland and Europe were going through turbulent times. I had a great personal interest in the Second World War. Indeed, you could say that I was a child of the Hitler war. I felt I could bring all this together in the one play.


Has your perspective on the play changed since it was first performed?

Absolutely. I have actually done some crucial rewriting for this production. I have tried to make Bracken’s obsession with Joyce more dramatic. The myth of fratricide, of Cain and Abel, was in my imagination as I wrote. None of this obsession has any basis in fact. It is all invented. I think the play is better structured now. At least, I hope so!


Do you see any parallels between the play’s themes and the current political climate?

I think we all found echoes in the play of Donald Trump and the rise of right-wing nationalism and fascism in Europe and elsewhere. It is extraordinary that this should be happening all over again, particularly in Germany, Poland and Hungary, places where that savage war was fought on these same issues, all those years ago in the last century.


Double Cross runs at the Lyric until 27 Oct.