Portrait of the artist: Enda Walsh, playwright

'I've never had to punch anyone, but I know I won't regret it if I do'

What got you started?

Having Roddy Doyle as an English teacher. All our school plays were adaptations he had written himself. He made theatre seem like a laugh.

What was your big breakthrough?

Staging my play The Ginger Ale Boy in Cork. I'd spent four years producing appalling work. This was still flawed, but it got me noticed.

Who or what have you sacrificed for your art?

Pleasure in theatre. When I watch a play, I notice all its flaws; I can't switch off.

If someone saw one of your plays in 1,000 years' time, what would it tell them about the year 2007?

That it was no different from 3007. My plays don't exist in a specific time; they're about the small mystery of getting up in the morning and living a life.

What one song would feature on the soundtrack to your life?

What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers. I first heard it when I was 10. I couldn't believe that white, bearded men could sound so cool.

Have you done anything cultural lately?

I spent an afternoon in a sports bar in Rhyl in north Wales recently, reading about the once-great seaside town's history. It was heartbreaking to see how the life had been sucked out of it.

Are you fashionable?

No, I'm hugely unfashionable. As a playwright, you can't be anything else, because most people hate theatre.

Do you suffer for your art?

Yes, on my opening nights. It's one thing having a play on the page, and another having 500 people in a theatre looking at it. The shock is appalling.

What's the greatest threat to theatre today?

A lack of courage on the part of artistic directors and critics. We need to wipe the slate clean and produce new work to remind us why theatre is so alive, visceral and important.

What advice would you give a young playwright just starting out?

Give yourself five years; if it doesn't happen, give up. If it does happen, work hard, and pitch yourself against the best.

Describe your best Edinburgh festival moment.

I arrived with my play Disco Pigs in 1996 and understood the scale of the festival for the first time. I found a load of dud shows among the hundreds being performed, but there was still something inspiring about so much creativity.

What work of art would you most like to own?

Any landscape by New Mexican painter Andrew Dasburg. His work is gorgeous.

Complete this sentence: At heart I'm just a frustrated . . . Misanthrope.

What cultural form leaves you cold or confused?

Modern jazz. I find it impenetrable.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

An actor once told me not to be afraid to punch someone who really annoys me. I've never had to do it, but I know I won't regret it if I do.

In short

Born: Dublin, 1967

Career: Worked with Cork-based theatre company Corcadorca. Won three awards for his 1996 play Disco Pigs, which was made into a film starring Ciarán Hinds in 2001. His new play The Walworth Farce is at the Traverse Theatre (0131-228 1404), Edinburgh until August 26.

High point: "Finishing The Walworth Farce and knowing it would get a great audience reaction."

Low point: "Seeing one of my plays on stage and I realising I could have done it better."


Interview by Laura Barnett

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Enda Walsh: 'I only operate properly in my imagination'

Enda Walsh thinks bits of Homer's Odyssey are underwritten. So he's livened them up – with a little cookery. Charlotte Higgins meets the playwright

Charlotte Higgins

10, Aug, 2010 @9:00 PM

Would you sit through a six-hour play?

Our culture may be defined by the soundbite and the text message but it seems we like our books, films and plays to be of epic proportions.

Mark Ravenhill

20, Aug, 2007 @1:57 AM

My Edinburgh: Rikki Beadle-Blair, playwright

Rikki Beadle-Blair, playwright

Interview by Laura Barnett

19, Aug, 2007 @11:38 PM

Pascal Wyse lets fate decide which show to see at the Fringe

There are so many shows on the Fringe that picking one can be agonising. Pascal Wyse put his day's entertainment in the hands of fate.

Pascal Wyse

19, Aug, 2007 @11:38 PM

Article image
How do you pronounce 'ymb'?

Benjamin Bagby's one-man performance of Beowulf, in the original Anglo-Saxon, is the surprise hit of the festival. Rowena Smith tries to unlock her inner bard.

Rowena Smith

21, Aug, 2007 @3:02 PM

Article image
Mark Fisher on Mabou Mines DollHouse

A Doll's House with dwarfs playing the male roles? It caused fury in the US - how will Edinburgh react? By Mark Fisher.

Mark Fisher

07, Aug, 2007 @10:15 AM

Inside Edinburgh

Eros Vlahos | Silent Disco | Club Vague | Club Spiegel

News, people, triumphs, turkeys

16, Aug, 2007 @7:56 AM

Edinburgh extra: other stuff we saw

Get Your War On | Dai (Enough) | Emergence-see! | Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea | Mile End | Psychic Detective

Lyn Gardner

16, Aug, 2007 @7:55 AM

Article image
Edinburgh theatre review: The Walworth Farce / Traverse

Enda Walsh's new play whisks together The Waltons, Samuel Beckett and Joe Orton, leaving Lyn Gardner spellbound and shattered.

Lyn Gardner

06, Aug, 2007 @10:34 AM

Beware the alien bakers ...

They are trying to take over the world, says Fringe sensation Hugh Hughes. Maddy Costa enters his strange and fantastical world.

Maddy Costa

23, Aug, 2007 @8:29 AM