Enda Walsh


1967- ; son of furniture salesman who was striken by the 1980s recession, and a mother who acted at the Abbey and Gate before marriage; ed. Greendale Community School, Kilbarrack, Co. Dublin, where Roddy Doyle and Paul Mercer both taught; studied film after school; moved to Cork to work with Corcadorca, for whom he wrote Disco Pigs (Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, 1996), the story of a dysfunctional attachment between two teenagers [Darren and Sinead], born on the same day in the same hospital ward in Cork [‘Pork Sitty’]; winner of Edinburgh Fringe Critics’ Award; also won the George Devine Award [UK] and the Stewart Parker Award in 1997; afterwards toured internationally for two years; m. Jo Ellison, Vogue features editor, and settled in London, 1997; wrote Misterman (Granary Th., Cork, 1999), a play centred on Thomas Magill - played by Walsh - the self appointed guardian of Inishfree’s morals, set in the Irish midlands;
Disco Pigs filmed with Cillian Murphy as Darren/Pig, opposition Elaine Cassidy as Runt (dir. Kirsten Sheridan, 2001); suffered death of his father from cancer, 2000; also Bedbound, Small Things, Chatroom (2005), New Electric Ballroom (Kammerspiel, Munich, 2005), and The Walworth Farce (Druid Th. Co., Town Hall, Galway, 2006; London Nat. Th., 2008), concerning a father who keeps his sons in; How These Men Talk (Druid, Galway; Delirium (2008), based on Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov; Zurich Shauspielehaus, 2008); co-scripted Hunger, a film about the hunger-strike and death of Bobby Sands (dir. Steve McQueen, prod. Robin Gutch, 2008), winner of Caméra d’Or award for best feature, May 2008; a film-version of his Chatroom, dir. by Hideo Nakata, selected for the Un certain regard [notice] at the Cannes Film Festival, 2010; his The New Electric Ballroom toured Ireland, April 2009; issued Gentrification: A Conversation With My Neighbour Henry (read at Traverse Th., Edinburgh 2009), featuring middle-class children taken hostage by the traditional occupants of the London street;
Walsh was working on a bioscope of Dusty Springfield in 2009; Misterman - revived and revised - played the Galway Town Hall Theatre, July 2010, with Cillian Murphy in the lead and an electronic score by Donnacha Dennehy; Ballyturk premiered at the Black Box Theatre, Galway (July 2013); toured to National Theatre (London; Sept.Oct 2014), with Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi as unnamed characters; praised for dialogue but criticised for uncertain focus.

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“Disco Pigs” in Far from the Land: Contemporary Irish Plays, ed. John Farleigh (London: Methuen 1998), 340pp.

Separate editions
  • Disco Pigs (London: Nick Hern Books 1997);
  • New Electric Ballroom (London: Nick Hern Books 2008).

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Emelie Fitzgibbon [interview], in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, ed. Lilian Chambers, Ger Fitzgibbon, Eamonn Jordan, et al. (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2001), pp.471-80; Edin Butler [interview], in Irish Times Magazine (14 Feb. 2009), p.8 [regretting mention of Fritzel in previous interview].

See also Arminta Wallace, interview with Cillian Murphy [preparing to play Misterman], in The Irish Times, 2 July 2011, Magazine Sect., pp.16-18 [incls. photo-ports of Murphy and one of Walsh].

There is a comprehensive Wikipedia page [online; accessed 11.10.2010.]

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Nelson Pressley, ‘Raising the Curtain on Modern Ireland’, in Washington Post (Sunday 22 Oct. 2000), notices Enda Walsh, author and dir., Bedbound at the New Theatre in Temple Bar, Dublin (p.G9.)

Richard Brooks, ‘Inside the Maze’, in New Statesman, 2 June 2008), pp.42-43: feature on Steve McQueen, dir., Hunger (C4; cinemas 2008), quotes McQueen: ‘I wanted Sam Beckett ideally’; in the end he chose Enda Walsh, the Irish-born playwright who now lives in Londo. ‘I knew I wanted a playwright not a screenwriter.’ Notes 20-min. scene with a priest, who finds out that Sands was a long-distance runner. McQueen and Walsh deliberately chose not to talk to the Sands family, though they did inform his next of kin, who kept their thoughts private; they did talk to former prisoners, prison officers and the priest at the Maze. The actor playing Sands is Michael Fassbender.

Maddy Costa, ‘One man and his monsters’, in The Guardian [Thurs.] (18 Sept. 2008), Arts Section, p.28: ‘[...] Like most people, playwright Enda Walsh was horrified by news reports earlier this year of the arrest of Joseph Fritzl, the Austrian who imprisoned his daughter for 24 years. Unlike most people, however, Walsh felt a troubled sense of familiarity, a connection, with the story. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s my territory. This is my plays.’” / He isn’t exaggerating. The Walworth Farce, which opens at the National Theatre next week, focuses on a tyrannical Irishman who has kept his two sons locked in a decrepit flat since the trio arrived in London almost two decades before. In The New Electric Ballroom, a hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, a woman is so controlled by her two older sisters that, at the age of 40, she has yet to be kissed. Most chillingly, Walsh’s 2000 play, Bedbound, depicted a young woman who has polio living hugger-mugger with her flamboyant father, in a space little bigger than a double bed. / Despite the mesmerising poetry of his writing, and its flashes of savage humour, Walsh’s plays are tough to watch - which is, the exuberant 41-year-old thinks, as it should be.’ (For full text version, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Fintan O’Toole, “Culture Shock” [column], The Irish Times (31 Oct. 2009), Weekend: ‘[...] What struck me most forcibly [on viewing Walsh’s The Walworth Farce in Minneapolis] is how much darker the play seems with this kind of non-Irish audience than it does at home. It is not, of course, that Walworth is an exercise in gentle Irish whimsy in any context. Walsh’s tale of a demented Irish father and his two sons in a London flat, playing out the same weird farce over and over, is pretty ferocious in Dublin, Cork or Galway. / It deals with murder, madness, and the locked-in Irish family. It subverts the whole idea of the Irish gift of storytelling as a cultural blessing and presents it as a psychotic reaction to a reality that must be avoided and denied. No one would ever mistake Walsh for Lady Gregory.’ (For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism / Reviews”, via index or direct.)

Sara Keating, interview-article [‘It’s a mad thing, this strange mix of fear and the compulsion to take risks’], in The Irish Times (25 June 2011), Weekend, p.1: ‘“When I was a kid,” Walsh says, as he explains the genesis of the idea for the play, “I used to tape conversations and listen back to them and be amazed, thinking, Wow, that conversation is still happening; those people are still here. And that’s the way it is for Thomas. Those voices for him are real.” / Misterman “is a play about survival, I suppose; the last hour and a half of Thomas’s life. If he stops what he’s doing he is going to die. He needs the story he’s creating, because it’s the only thing that is keeping him going. If he stops, he will realise what he has done, where he is, in this broken, cracking space in the world. I feel like that as a playwright sometimes. / “You are trapped in a room thinking, How am I going to get through the day? You are rolling a rock up a hill. But at the same time, if what I’m doing the story switches itself off, I just won’t exist any more. It’s this ...” he is squatting in a half-standing position, his eyes rolling upwards, as if about to take flight “it is hard and exhausting, but you love it or you wouldn’t do it. And if you didn’t do it maybe you really just wouldn’t exist any more.”’ [Cont.]

Sara Keating (The Irish Times, 25 June 2011, Weekend) - cont. Walsh wrote Misterman in the aftermath of the enormous success of Disco Pigs. After premiering in Cork in 1997 and transferring to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the production thrust Walsh and his collaborators on to a two-year international tour. It was a mad time for Walsh, he says. “And when it had all died down, I wanted to do something that was just a total antidote to Disco Pigs, which was all urban and cool. I really wanted to write something rural instead. / “Ballykissangel was on TV at the time, I remember, and I thought, I’d like to take a hammer to that kind of Ireland. I wanted to write a real Irish story, but a warped one, as if you were looking at that world through a veil of absinthe.” / He decided to set it in the midlands. “Though I hadn’t even been around the country much,” he says. “But I went off on a bus, travelling between all these different towns, staying in BBs, having random conversations with the landladies, writing them down. And I thought, Well, it is all well and good writing these scenes where people talk about nothing, but I wanted to find a way of showing how irritating that was for a certain type of character. I wanted to find a way of making it much more personal.” Misterman’s dystopian depiction of a small-town mentality is the frightening result.’ (See full text at The Irish Times, online; note that the internet version shows a photo of Cillian Murphy erroneously captioned Enda Walsh.)

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Disco Pigs (1996): ‘So we grow up bit at a dime an all dat dime we silen when odders roun. No word or no-ting. An wen ten arrive we squeak a different way den odders. [ ... ] an we looka was happenin an we make a whirl where Pig an Runt jar king an queen! [ ... ] An Pig look cross at me jus like he look when we were babas an he alla say ֻLes kill da town, ya on?” An I alla say - corse I’m on - I’m ja pal, amn't I? An liddle tings we do like robbin an stealin is a good feelin, yes indeedy. An we read dem buuks on howta figh da peeplah ya hate. An Pig own has me ... an Runt own have him. But we make a whirl dat no one can live sept us two. Bonny an Clyde, ya seen da movie.’ (Disco Pigs & Sucking Dublin, London: Nick Hern Books 1996, p.15.)

Further: ‘An Runt race good dis time! Mus ged away! No mo all dis play an pain! [ ... ] An it well ovur, drama fans! Jus me! Jus da liddle girl all aloneys! An I wan Pig an I wan for all da buzz an all da disco we do dance but hey ho an wadda ya know I wan fur sumthin else! Sumthin differen! Sumthin differen! Fuckin freedom!! Jus me!! Jus da Runt!! [...] Jus me an da big big colour blue. Dat colour blue! [ ... ] An I look a da sun crep up on my pal Pork ... Cork. [ ... ] An Runt she alone now. But is okay now, is all righ. An I watch ... da liddle quack quacks ... I look ... at the ducks as they swim in the morning sun ... in the great big ... watery-shite ... that is the river Lee. - Where to?’ (ibid. 29; both quoted in Christian Schmitt-Kilb, ‘The End(s) of Language in Brian Friel’s Translations and Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs and misterman’, in Scenario, 3, 2 [Cork U.] 2009) - online; accessed 10.05.2017.)

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Disco Pigs (1996): Pig and Runt, two inseparable violent creatures who have developed their own language from birth, set out to celebrate their 17th birthdays in the nightclubs of Cork, a city lost in dance and pounding rave rhythms; in the course of the night they separate; only one will survive the attachment. (See Doollee Com online; accessed 11.10.2010.)

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Triskel (or Triskelion) is a three-fold pattern of whorls often found in ancient Celtic designs such as those in the Boyne Valley megalithic tombs and arguably echoed in the shamrock associated with St Patrick's trinitarian teaching in legend. The union of threes is believed to have had special power in Celtic thought and is especially associated with the three-fold powers of such deities as the Morrigan and Lugh (of Lughnasa festival).

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Misterman (1999): Title-character Thomas Magill is the self-appointed guardian of Inishfree’s moral welfare, inside his own head; Mammy has a cold and the cat is depressed [...] when all the words have stopped inside his head, will Inishfree and Thomas survive Thomas’s judgement day? (See Doollee Com online; accessed 11.10.2010.)

Bedbound (2000): Father and gaughter share a small bed; he talks frantically about his past in furniture sales; she talks no less compulsively about anything at all, to fill the terrible silence in her head; everything is frantic and broken and ugly because they can’t stop talking. If only they could stop and sleep. (See Doollee Com online; accessed 11.10.2010.)

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