Owen McCafferty

1961- ; Northern Irish playwright; author of I Won’t Dance Don’t Ask Me (1993); The Waiting List (April 1994), a monologue; The Private Picture Show (Lyric 1994); Freefalling (1996); Shoot the Crow (Druid Th. 1997); Mojo Mickybo (1998); Convictions (2000); No Place Like Home (2001); Closing Time (National Th., 9 Sept. 2002); Scenes from the Big Picture (2003) - winner of John Whiting Award, the Meyer Whitworth Award and the Evening Standard Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright, 2003; Cold Comfort (2005); Days of Wine and Roses (after J. P. Miller 2005); Antigone (after Sophocles 2008); The Absence of a Woman (Lyric Th. 2010); Quietly (Abbey Th. 2012); Unfaithful (2014), Death of a Comedian (2015) [chiefly publ. Nick Hern from 2002- ].

Some venues: Quietly (Abbey Theatre, Dublin and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Festival, 2013); an adaptation of JP Miller’s Days of Wine and Roses (Donmar Warehouse, London, 2005); Scenes from the Big Picture (National Theatre, London, 2003); Shoot the Crow (Druid, Galway, 1997; Royal Exchange, Manchester, 2003); Mojo Mickybo (Kabosh, Belfast, 1998); No Place Like Home (Tinderbox, Belfast, 2001) and Closing Time (National Theatre, 2002).

Owen McCafferty’s website: Owen’s first screenplay called Ordinary Love for Candleblinks Films and Out of Orbit was shot in Belfast during the summer of 2018 and stars Liam Neeson and Leslie Manville. The world premiere was at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2019. The film went on to win Best Movie 2020 in the Irish Film & TV Awards. Owen’s latest play Agreement sold out at the Lyric Theatre Belfast in April 2023 (See online; accessed 02.11.2023).

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Collections, Plays and Monologues: Owen McCafferty (Belfast: Lagan Press 1998), 191pp. [contains Shoot the Crow; Damage Done; The Waiting List; Freefalling; I Won’t Dance Don’t Ask Me; and The Private Picture Show]; Owen McCafferty: Plays 2 [Contemp. Classics] (London: Faber & Faber 2016), incls. Absence of Women; Titanic; Quietly; Unfaithful; Death of a Comedian; Beach].

Mojo Mickybo (Belfast: Lagan Press 1998) is a vibrant and fast-paced tale of two boys growing up in Belfast in the early 1970s--one from up the road, the other from over the bridge. Their friendship centers on playing headers, torturing a cantankerous old man, building huts, spitting from cinema balconies and re-enacting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Also include the two short monologues, The Waiting List and I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me.

Closing Time (London: Nick Hern Books 2002), 54pp. Closing Time is a tender portrait of love, dignity and emotional damage set in a grubby Belfast pub/hotel owned by feisty but fading Vera and her permanently half-drunk husband Ronnie. The pub provides a sanctuary from the outside world for those who live or drink there. Images on the large-screen television (which is always on, but with its sound muted) tell of Belfast’s ‘transformation’ after years of sectarian violence. But as the drinks flow and night closes in, the reality of life sinks in and everybody’s ability to cope with each other and themselves is eroded.

Shoot the Crow (London: Nick Hern 2003) is a sad and hilarious play about a day in the life of four Irish tilers on a building site. As they come to the end of the job they’ve been working on, Ding-Ding and Randolph plan to nick a left-over pallet of tiles. Dind-Ding wants to buy a window-cleaning round and Randolph has his eye on a motorbike. But the foreman and his sidekick have had the same idea ...

Antigone (London: Nick Hern 2008): ..Owen McCafferty's version of Sophocles’ Antigone is a muscular take on the ancient Greek tragedy that offers a reflection on the nature of power, democracy and human rights. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions at the Waterfront ...

Agreement (London: Faber & Faber 2023), ix, 86pp.: [Agreement] examines the negotiations leading up to the Good Friday Agreement and weaves potent drama out of this complex, momentous, landmark event ...

[ See listing of publication at Nick Hern > McCafferty - online. See also Irish Playgoer > McCafferty - online. Both accessed 04.11.2023. ]

Patrick Whyte, review of The Absence of Women (Absolut Fringe 2010): ‘Although set in a bleak London hostel, this is a play about Belfast: about the people who were forced to leave its geographic location but bound to carry with them memories of their home place. Owen McCafferty’s thought-provoking new play brings us on a series of journeys with the protagonists, Ger (Karl Johnson) and Iggy (Ian McElhinney), from their public pasts and the contribution they made to the building of British transport systems, to their private memories of their youth and the burdens which they are now left with. [...] There is both comedy and pathos in their interaction as the gloom of the setting and circumstances is relieved by their witty banter. 

Further: ‘[...] There is little sense of engagement and the production gives the impression that the actors are merely reciting lines at each other, rather than portraying two characters actively listening and responding. / McCafferty’s script is partly to blame for this problem. While two men in ragged clothes talking about death may sound somewhat Beckettian, this is where the similarities end. In parts, the dialogue feels over-written as does the monologue of Dotty, who wears ruby-red slippers and also wants to escape to a better life. The analogy with the Wizard of Oz is far from subtle. However, Dotty’s interactions with Ger are amusing and O’Connell is great as the flirtatious female who becomes frustrated by Ger’s inability to communicate with women. Unfortunately, under Rachel O’Riordan’s direction, the chemistry and potential for romance between the two is unconvincing. In recent years, the lives of Irish navvy workers in England have received much attention on stage and screen, and there is a feeling that we have heard many of Ger and Iggy’s stories before. However, McCafferty’s play does add a specifically Belfast dimension to these representations. [...]’ (Available online; accessed 04.11.2023.)

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