After last year’s shocking Cyprus Avenue, playwright David Ireland returns with his new play, The End of Hope. Samuel Sims talks to David about the current political scene, body issues and whether destroying ITV2 could really save us all.
Unfortunately I didn’t see Cyprus Avenue when it played the Royal Court theatre in 2016, which is unfortunate because “subversive and violent” plays (as it was described by numerous publications) are a particularly favourite of mine. Shucks. But there’s hope.
The End of Hope is a different kettle of fish. This story is about two strangers post one-night stand, the peculiarities of romance and how fun it is to slate the person you are gradually falling in love with. It is about the inferiority complex that many of us have when it comes to looks & identity. It’s about how we should always be open to others’ opinions even if they seem completely idiotic. David Ireland’s new play is very funny, but should not be read on the tube, otherwise you become THAT PERSON.
I caught up with David just as the show opened at the Soho Theatre:
The comedy in The End of Hope is pretty black, but generally it seems less shocking than Cyprus Avenue. Did you consciously want to create something more light-hearted?
David: I wrote The End of Hope a few years before Cyprus Avenue, it’s just taken some time for the play to find its way to London. But I love comedy and I especially love romantic comedies. People always think I’m joking when I say that but I love Neil Simon, Nora Ephron, Richard Curtis, Judd Apatow. It was an attempt to write something in that vein but with a Belfast voice.
I love Paris and Isabelle Huppert. And I used to like the Labour Party
The idea of romance and monogamy merges with the examination of humanity and identity… Is either theme more prominent than the other?
David: I think they’re all equally important themes in the play. But of course when you’re writing, you’re not thinking about themes, you’re just thinking about what the characters want and how they’ll get there. In order to be genuine and vulnerable with each other, both characters have to overcome all the divisions between them of class, religion, culture and identity. So it’s all tied in.
Initially, Janet doesn’t seem to care about having anything in common with Dermot. Do you see this detachment as the current state of the West’s ‘romantic culture’?
David: At the start of the play, both characters have given up on romance and are just looking for sex. The whole thing might be a metaphor for political disengagement and social alienation, but I wouldn’t like to be so highfalutin about my own play. I wrote it after falling in love with the woman who was to become my wife. I think I had assumed I wasn’t going to meet anyone and then everything changed forever.
The whole thing might be a metaphor for political disengagement and social alienation, but I wouldn’t like to be so highfalutin about my own play
The dialogue is very real and completely hilarious. How much of you is talking?
David: It’s hard to say how much exactly is me. I recognise a lot of myself in the characters. Like Janet I can be mischievous, provocative, defensive and annoying. Like Dermot I can be insecure, self-absorbed, humourless and pretentious. And of course, both characters are acting like idiots because they’re falling in love. And we’ve all been there. I don’t share Dermot’s hatred of Tony Blair. And I don’t share Janet’s hatred of the French – I love Paris and Isabelle Huppert. And I used to like the Labour Party.
It’s hard to write about Belfast without darkness and the threat of violence being somewhere in the background
How did you find writing a female character and the insecurities she holds?
David: Very easy. They’re all my insecurities. I hate my body.
How important is it that we listen to others even if their opinion is completely different to our own?
David: I wrote the play before the domestic and global political scene became so polarised. Before Brexit, Trump, Corbyn, the Scottish independence referendum – but it seems to have become more relevant.
It feels like the whole world is becoming like Northern Ireland during the Troubles. There’s so much anger, hatred, contempt for and distrust of the other side. Tribalism and the sense of impending violence in the air. People have stopped listening to each other or engaging in genuine debate, preferring verbal abuse and name calling.
So, yeah, I think people should listen to opinions they don’t agree with. Personally I love reading the writings of people I disagree with. As long as it’s well argued, well written – that’s all I care about. And I think it’s healthy not to take your own opinions too seriously and to acknowledge that you’ll often be wrong in your life.
It’s hard to argue with the fact that everyone who watches ITV is a cunt, as Janet states so strongly. What do you think about writing an 1984 type book where getting rid of this will truly free the Proletariat?
David: I have a sentimental soft spot for ITV. I grew up watching Blind Date, Game for a Laugh, Bullseye, Strike It Lucky. I miss those days. I don’t think I could write a book like 1984. If I’d have written 1984, there would have been a dick joke every other page. And the world doesn’t need that right now.