A Quickie With Queer Irish Playwright and Comedian, Sonya Kelly

As Sonya Kelly’s play, Furniture, gets ready to debut as part of Druid’s season of new Irish work at the Galway Arts Festival, she tells us about the themes she’s interested in, who would play her in the movie of her life, and why Ursula Halligan is her ultimate queer icon.

Sonya Kelly talks about her new play, Furniture

“I am interested in humour and humanity and how they feed each other.”

Sonya Kelly’s debut solo play, The Wheelchair on My Face won a Scotsman Fringe First Award for new writing at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012 and received a Critics’ Pick in the New York Times. Her second play, How To Keep An Alien, won Best Production at the Dublin Fringe in 2014 and toured internationally. Her short play, The Pet Sitter was commissioned by the Abbey Theatre and she is a regular contributor to RTÉ’s Arena. Her latest play, Furniture, was selected by Druid for a public reading as part of the Druid Debut series at the Galway International Arts Festival in 2017 and is now scheduled for a full production at the festival this year. We sat down for a quick chat with her.

Hey Sonya! If you could describe ‘Furniture’ in one sentence, what would it be?

Furniture, a play about tables and chairs and the people who love them.

Who are the six characters in ‘Furniture’?

We have Ed, an artist, Alex, an ophthalmologist, Stef who works in Human Resources, Dee, we don’t know what she does, George is an elderly gay man and Michael is his solicitor nephew. They are all delightfully complex, confused, idiotic, self-centered and utterly adorable.

So, what’s the biggest theme at play in this play, Sonya?

The biggest theme in the play, I would say, is basic consideration. The ability to be considerate in contemporary society is an art form. We all expect it, but too often are blind to our own instincts to administer it. The prices of furniture present triggers for how the characters consider each other or don’t. They are roadmaps to their core values and set the drama in motion.

What are you interested in exploring with all your work?

I am interested in humour and humanity and how they feed each other. Furniture essentially is a play about tiny human conundrums that all too often are left to fester and become Opera when the finally dislodge from our hearts and come out into the open.

Who is the greatest comedy influence on you, and why?

Oh, there are so many. At the moment it is Tig Notaro and Sarah Silverman but if I go way back, Mork and Mindy could give them a run for their money. Let us not forget The Muppet Show, the queerest thing on TV when I was a kid, apart from Dallas and Cagney and Lacey. Hannah Gadsby is also tearing it up at the moment. She has taken the step of blending moments of pure hilarity with uncomfortably blistering rage, something you are not supposed to do in a comedy show. It is very inspiring and much needed.



Who is your greatest theatrical influence, Sonya, and why?

Aristotle had a fair idea of what he was on about. In Poetics, he distilled the emotional journey of the audience into a science. Every time I am stuck I return to Aristotle. Druid Theatre, of course, have long represented a standard of work I have striven to emulate. The fact that they picked Furniture out of the pile and are producing it is quite a big deal.

Who is your ultimate queer icon?

Ursula Halligan. No brainer. If alone for that time she turned the mic on Bertie Aherne outside the Dail and said; ‘What happened to Royston Brady Mr. Aherne? Was he abducted by aliens?’

If you could have any five people in history over to yours for dinner, who would they be?

Quentin Crisp, that was a real moment when I read his books. Dorothy Parker, but I’d be terrified of her. Poncherello from Chips, I used to pretend he lived in out in the garden shed and I was the only person who could see him. The Mona Lisa model and Janis Joplin to kick off the old sing song after they serve the coffee and tiramisu.

Who would play you in the biopic of your life, Sonya, and what would it be called?

I would have Ed Byrne or Jodie Foster because I look like both of them. Oddly, they don’t look like each other. It would be called: ‘I’d Have Gotten There Quicker, If I Could Only Get Past Myself’.

What’s the best piece of life advice you ever received?

If you never try, you will fail 100% of the time. I am also a fan of, work hard, be nice to people. Who would have ever thought it was that simple?

‘Furniture’ by Sonya Kelly runs from July 16 to 28 at The Mick Lally Theatre on Druid Lane, Galway. Booking here.


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