We sat down with Riley Carter and Amy Conroy in the middle of the run of their incredible stage show Luck Just Kissed You Hello and chatted about writing, inspiration, masculinity and more.
Riley will be familiar to fans of Eastenders as he played Kyle Slater, making history as the first Trans man to play a Trans character in British soap history. Amy is one of Ireland’s most celebrated playwrights, also responsible for the gorgeous love story I Heart Alice Heart I. In an interesting note, the character played by Riley was originally played by Amy in the first iteration of the show, which we also discussed.
So what is the show about? Riley’s character Mark returns home for the death of his father. Confronted by his twin brother Gary and old friend Sullivan, he defends his new life to those who know him best as Laura. Can Mark face his past and find out what it truly means to be his own man?
It was a pleasure to chat with Riley and Amy about their show. We had a wonderful conversation, so without further ado, let’s get into it!
What inspired you to write Luck Just Kissed You Hello?
Amy: So a lot of the play is very personal to me. But then it goes in a direction that goes beyond me. You know, I’m not a Trans man. But gender for me always feels quite fluid. I suppose that’s the gender part but this play really is not a Trans play, It’s not about the Trans identity. It’s about one character, Mark who happens to be Trans.
I think it’s a play about men and masculinity and masculinities through that lens. I think I wrote the play because I was angry. And I wrote the play because I am frustrated. And let me think of the right words… Not just frustrated, but a little heartbroken by the role of men, or what we or the patriarchy ultimately have fashioned for men going forward and how that leaves young men at a loss as well: ‘I’m not that, but I’m not this. Who am I? What’s the road for me?’ And so this is kind of a cubist look at one man deciding the type of man that he wants to be or could be.
And of course, it’s done through the lens of somebody who was born female and having to kind of try on different versions of masculinity.
Riley, do you see any similarities between yourself and Mark?
The main reason I’m so interested in this project is because, as I’ve expressed to Amy during the interview/audition process, was that it’s good to explore more than just currently what’s shown on TV and in the theatre of Trans characters and that it wasn’t focused on that. It wasn’t just that. It’s about a different perspective.
When you’re transitioning, you are trying to figure out what version of something perhaps you want to be… It was interesting to explore, because it is relatable, how you are constantly still trying to decide whether should I be that way? What does it mean, ultimately, to be a man?
And I think when you’ve made that decision to transition, it feels in my perspective a bit ‘Okay, right. I need to make the right choice. But what is the right choice?’
What made Riley the perfect fit for Mark?
Amy: I find Riley to be a very compelling performer. He’s a very natural performer. He has this lovely openness and whatever he’s thinking is on his face. It’s very accessible for us. And it’s really lovely. It’s very pure. And, and yeah, that’s why.
Was there any advice that you gave Riley, having played the character before a few years ago?
Amy: I don’t think so. What makes a play a play is that it’s written to be performed and made by different people all the time. And that’s, I think, what makes a successful play – if it can be handed over and performed anywhere by anyone.
I think this play is quite a rigorous play. It’s quite dense, and how it’s written. There’s a lot of subtext, and it has to be worked quite closely. I think that is kind of the vibe in the room. Like there’s a lot of fun in the play, but, there’s a great deal of discipline underneath it but I think that’s the same for every play, to be honest. I feel about this play, that if it ever feels easy, then you’re doing it wrong.
Riley: Just to add is that Amy’s never been like, well, I did this way, you know, and I think because she’s played the character before, it could be easy to do that but she’s out there for what can be interpreted… I mean, I’m curious to know how it was done the first time just out of curiosity… but Amy has never made us do it in a particular way, she’s very open to see how we interpret the writing.
Is this the first time that a Trans actor is playing a lead role in the Abbey Theatre? And if so, What are your thoughts about that?
Amy: It thrills me. I think it’s so important to look into that. I look forward to the time where there are Trans actors playing every role, and they’re just the actors in the show. I know we’re not there yet but that’s where we want to be heading. I know, we move incrementally, but we’re moving and that’s important.
Why do you think ‘Luck Just Kissed You Hello’ is so important now?
Riley: I think it’s important because, as Amy says, where we want to go, we’re still not there yet. I feel like a few years ago, when Amy first did it and when I was put into EastEnders, it was a big shift. And personally, I just feel like there’s a sudden hope and a resilience to things from a lot of different areas, government wise and stuff.
I’m from the UK and there’s stuff going on there. For me, it’s kind of like, we’re here, and we’re not stopping. And I just love that. I think there’s so much further we need to go but this story again, it’s not just a Trans story… There’s so many questions that come from this, not just about masculinity, I think there’s actually a lot to unpack from it, which again, is done by Amy’s writing. There’s so much to take from it.
And, you know, it’s fun, there’s a lot of fun in it, and I think that that’s important to do as well. I think that there needs to be room to have a laugh about things- there’s room for error, and there’s room for growth. We’re not all perfect, and a lot of things are changing. As long as people are willing to understand, willing to learn and willing to come together and understand one another we can still join together to have a laugh and move forward.
What do you hope audiences will take away from Luck Just Kissed You Hello?
Amy: I would be very reluctant to have a prescriptive answer to that. I mean, people will feel or think what they feel, you know what I mean? I know what it is for me. It’s quite cathartic.
Riley: There’s so many different angles that you can look at it and what you can take from it. Because I think each time when, like me and the two lads have performed, there’s always something a little bit different. Something else that comes from it that we might pick out in that moment.
You know, we’re in previews at the moment and we’re getting used to the audience, which is great. So now the audiences are finding different moments, which ignite different things within the performance and I think it can sometimes change the energy within those different scenes and that will provide something new each night.
Luck Just Kissed You Hello runs until May 14 in the Peacock Theatre. Tickets for the show can be purchased here.
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