Way back in 2013, we had Kieran Hurley’s stage show Beats here. Kieran played the starring role alongside a pumping soundtrack from a live techno DJ and intoxicating live visuals. The show was part of a wave of theatre that would start to test boundaries of genre, bending typical conventions of what shows should look like, and stretching them into fresh new forms. Kieran’s new show Square Go comes to us in a few weeks and it continues in this punk tradition. It’s raucous, riotous fun that Broadway Baby said acted as “a great big middle finger to proper theatre” in their ★★★★★ review.
Ahead of Square Go coming here on 27 and 28 September, and the film adaptation of his play Beats being screened on 14 October, we managed to grab Kieran for five minutes for a chat with the award-winning writer, performer and theatre-maker about the show, the film and his influences.
We had the one-man-show version of Beats here back in 2013 and now the film is coming to our film club! Can you tell us a bit about your experience here back in 2013, and the show’s journey from stage to screen?
We had a great time at the Old Market with Beats as I remember. It was a monologue, but it was also performed with a DJ, Johnny Whoop, and live visuals mixed by Jamie Wardrop – so when you add in Adam the tour tech there was a bit of a team of us on the road and it was a really fun time. It all begins to blur a bit but I seem to remember the Brighton audience really enjoying the show. At that point I was just beginning to make plans for the screen adaptation with Brian (Welsh, co-writer and director of the film) and the prospect of it being made felt like a long way away.
Beats is an ode to the 90’s free party scene, was that a scene that you were a part of?
Nah, in 1994 when the story is set I was about 9 years old. So no, I just missed it. I had an older brother who would’ve been Johnno’s age though and I had my own generational equivalent I suppose, of the music, the culture, the associated politics, the associated drugs…
We’ve got the show you co-wrote with Gary McNair, Square Go, coming here in September, how would you describe the show to someone who isn’t familiar with your work?
Square Go is a bonkers wee play that Gary and I wrote about growing up as teenagers in Scotland and the kind of violent bullshit that we teach young men about how to be in the world from a very young age. It’s funny, and explosive, and told entirely on the level of these two young kids – who are both played by adults – as one of them prepares for a fight at the school kids with a boy much, much harder than him. There’s lots of laughs, lots of getting the audience to cheer them on, and it helps if folk come prepared to get into and create a bit of atmosphere – but there’s also a serious point in there, and a hopefully quite touching wee story about male friendship.
Both Beats and Square Go talk about adolescence, friendship, and coming-of-age, how much does your younger self inform or inspire your writing?
I guess it does quite a lot. I think a lot of writers mine those incredibly formative years in even slightly more hidden ways, continuously. That there’s a bit of thematic overlap between these two plays is not a huge surprise as they were actually both written round about the same time. Square Go sat in a drawer for years – it’s one of the weird rhythms of being a writer, your newest work isn’t always actually new. So I’m glad it’s out now and doing well because I’m incredibly fond of it.
Square Go comes to TOM on 27-28 September. Click here for more info.
Beats will be screened as part of TOM’s Film Club on 14 October.