Sep 03

“From Ballyfermot to New York and to the Sean O’Casey…” – an interview with playwright Derek Murphy


killing soc

The Sean O’Casey Festival 2022 will feature Basement Productions’ “A Very Irish Killing”, the first time the group has performed at the Sean O’Casey Theatre. It is also the first time a play by Derek Murphy has been performed in East Wall, so we were pleased to have a few words with Derek in advance of his debut here.

Playwright Derek Murphy

Playwright Derek Murphy

SO’C: “We are going to start with a very obvious question – as a Dubliner and a playwright, what does Sean O’Casey mean to you?”


DM: “I was born and raised in Ballyfermot, Dublin.  One of my earliest jobs was in a fish and poultry shop in Dorset Street not too far from where Sean O’Casey was born. I didn’t give O’Casey much thought at that time; I was more concerned with how to get rid of the smell of fish. Then, some ten years later, I was living in New York and, at the time, always on the verge of returning home to Dublin. In New York, I went to see the Gate Theatre’s production of Sean O’Casey’s ‘Juno and The Paycock’, with the incredible Donal McCann as Captain Jack Boyle, John Kavanagh as Joxer and Geraldine Plunkett as Juno Boyle. It was, without doubt, a life-changing experience for me. McCann made me want to be an actor, O’Casey made me want to be a playwright. In the end, O’Casey won, and for better or worse, I became a playwright, thus sparing the world the torture, and me the embarrassment, of my sad acting skills.”

(Image courtesy: Derek Murphy)

(Image courtesy: Derek Murphy)

SO’C: “That’s interesting, because O’Casey himself tried a bit of acting, too, before settling on the writing end of things. But that’s not the only thing you have in common. Like O’Casey, you left Ireland, but you still write about it and set your plays here?”


DM: “I am delighted to have my play ‘A Very Irish Killing’ in the Sean O’Casey Festival. Dublin means the world to me: Dublin is Ballyfermot, it’s Sean O’Casey, it’s the smell of the Liffey, it’s a quiet pint of the black stuff in a dimly lit pub in the afternoon. Most everything I’ve written takes place in Dublin.”

SO’C: “Can you tell us a bit about ‘A Very Irish Killing’ and what the audience can expect?”

DM: “‘A Very Irish Killing’ was developed in part at the salons produced by IAWA (Irish American Writers & Artists) group in New York. They, of course, have close ties with the Sean O’Casey Theatre themselves. The play takes place in county Dublin on Christmas Eve, 1970. It tells the story of two sisters, June and April O’Brien, and the young handsome killer they’ve hired to kill a certain individual they’ve long since wearied of and prefer be gone. Nothing can go wrong, until everything does.”



The cast of "A very Irish Killing" - Tina Browne , David Spain, Niamh Sweeney, and Craig Gahan.

The cast of “A very Irish Killing” – Tina Browne , David Spain, Niamh Sweeney, and Craig Gahan.

SO’C: “It’s interesting that you are so specific about the location and the exact date. How would you classify your plays in terms of genre or style?”

DM: “My plays are often referred to as dark comedies. I think of them all as appalling tragedies, really. Inside that dark lies the tragedy, the heartbreak, and it’s addressed mostly through comedy; it’s how the characters communicate. Jokes are a survival skill for most of the characters I write. A pint and a joke, sure – why not? We all exit the stage in the end. There are no encores, so make the most of your present production, because at the end of the day we are all… fecked.”

SO’C: “You’ve had a good relationship with Basement Productions for some time, and it’s clear that Ballyfermot and Dublin are still very important to you?”

DM: “I began working with Basement Productions and Billy Mangan a few years ago when we did my play “Dyin’ for It”, first in Ballyfermot and later in Smock Alley. I had done this play in New York with some wonderful Irish actors, but it was especially thrilling to do it in Ballyfermot with Ballyfermot actors, as the play actually takes place in Ballyfermot. We’ve also done a weekly radio comedy/drama “Dial M For Mammy” together, as well as a short film, and now we’re doing “A Very Irish Killing”.

SO’C: “We are looking forward to having it as part of this year’s festival and hopefully you’ll be coming back to us in the not-too-distant future. No doubt you have plans for what’s next for you?”

DM: “The future is looking bright. I have a play in New York in January and we may bring back “A Very Irish Killing” to Dublin around Christmas, as the play takes place on a Christmas Eve. As the title would suggest there are not very many presents being exchanged this particular Christmas.”

dyin for itdannys box


Derek Murphy’s plays have been produced on both sides of the Atlantic. His plays include, A Short Wake, Stand Up Man, Appendage, Dyin’ for It, Inside Danny’s Box, The Love Parts, Squares, The Betty Kiss, and The Good Dress.


A very Irish Killing

Thanks to Derek Murphy for taking the time to chat with us. We hope you can join us on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st for “A Very Irish Killing” as part of the Sean O’Casey Festival 2022. 



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