Dennis Kelly (Author of Girls & Boys)By Daisy Bowie-Sell. Playwright Dennis Kelly is on a high. His plays, though littered with humour, often cover the murky edges of society, violence and the conflict between right and wrong. In his play Osama the Hero, a young boy chooses Osama bin Laden as his personal hero for a school project and as a result is hunted down and tortured by his neighbours. In Taking Care of Baby Kelly wrote a fictional verbatim play about a woman who is convicted of infanticide. This is certainly the case in his play DNA, which was first staged in at the National Theatre and is about to go on national tour for the first time.
Dennis Kelly: 'I thought that drinking was all I had to offer'
This was strange for two reasons: the first was that musicals generally start with the director or composer, not the person who's going to write the script, which can often be seen as an afterthought. Jeanie had the notion that by starting with a playwright you would concentrate on getting the story right and the words wouldn't end up as stuff simply gluing songs together. The second reason was that I had absolutely no knowledge of musicals whatsoever. Far from believing this was a problem, I think it was actually what she was after. I remember the politely raised eyebrows when I told people I was doing a musical, often followed by a change of the subject, or even outright laughter. Then to make things even riskier, instead of getting a tried and tested composer to write the songs, the RSC went for a comedian, Tim Minchin , whose act at that time included forcing a member of the audience into a bear suit and getting them to dance. Today it seems that getting Tim to write a musical was an obviously smart move, but at that time I believe he was just as risky a choice as I was — and the proof of that is that no one had thought of it before.
What are your favourite memories of bringing it to the stage? I mainly remember it being a laugh. But it was a lovely time and a great learning curve to go on. The hardest thing was working out the structure. Roald Dahl is a master of his craft, but his craft is books.
Some people might have encountered Dennis Kelly as the writer of the musical Matilda , for which he won a Tony award earlier this year.
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