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Interview: Writer Kieran Hurley on bringing Fringe hit Mouthpiece to London and how theatre needs to change

I think that some of the people running theatres need to really ask who they’re making work for, and why, and what kinds of work they value.

Kieran Hurley

Following a 5 star run at the Traverse Theatre, Fringe First winner Kieran Hurley brings Mouthpiece to Soho Theatre next month.  Here he talks about the play, the point of theatre and making it more inclusive.

How would you describe Mouthpiece?

It’s a two-person play about a teenage artist with a traumatic home life, and a jaded middle-aged writer who meets him and turns his story into a play.

Performed by two wonderful actors in Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh it also has a cracking original score by Kim Moore. It is funny and sad and angry, it’s a bit sexy and a bit weird, and it’s all done and dusted in about 90 minutes or so.

The play questions the purpose of art and theatre, what do you think the point of theatre is?

For all my continual frustrations with it, theatre is still where we come together to be present with each other and present with stories that help us understand how we live and how we might live better.

Mouthpiece (4)
What needs to change to make theatre more representative, inclusive and diverse?

There’s a strong argument to be made that it simply needs fewer people that look like me in it which makes answering this question and continuing to make my living in theatre a continual point of personal contention.

But there needs to be change on a more systemic level. Sometimes it feels like there are important pushes in the right direction, but the whole thing is still utterly steeped in hierarchy and class prejudice.

I think that some of the people running theatres need to really ask who they’re making work for, and why, and what kinds of work they value.

You’ve written a little for radio and screen as well as stage, are the other mediums more representative?

I don’t have any real reason to believe that things are massively different in these other industries. My own background is pretty solidly middle class, but I’ve been in meetings with film people where they spend the whole time looking at me like I’m from another planet. It’s every bit as weird and posh as the theatre is, for the most part.

What’s next for you?

This is always the most frustrating question because I really want to tell you what I’m working on but I can’t because it isn’t announced yet.

A film I co-wrote called Beats is in cinemas in May, and I’m working on one or two other screen things at a very early stage.

Square Go - a play I co-wrote with Gary McNair which was on at the Fringe recently - continues to live on and will be in New York in the summer.

There’s a new play that’ll hopefully be on in Scotland next year if all goes well, but I might well have jinxed it now. We’ll see.

Mouthpiece is at Soho Theatre from 2 April to 4 May.

Want to read more?

Inclusivity also came up in an interview with writer Kat Woods about her play Killymuck ahead of its run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Killymuck is now having a London run as part of a double bill at the Bunker Theatre and opens next week