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Five minutes with… The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argle playwright Ross Dungan

N-Q&A - press image 2 Emmet Kirwan as Eric Argyle-N

RECENTLY described as part of a new movement of Irish theatre-makers, British audiences can currently get a second taste for the work of emerging Irish playwright Ross Dungan with his excellent new play The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle running in London’s Soho Theatre until April 20.

Produced by the hugely acclaimed young Irish company 15th Oak, the play centres on a man who barely lived enough to have regrets.

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Starring Dubliner Emmet Kirwan (pictured), it has proved successful with runs in Dublin and at the Edinburgh Festival.

Dungan, whose first play Minute after Midday won a prestigious Fringe First award in Edinburgh, also writes for Fair City and BAFTA-winning children’s show Roy. He talks to The Irish Post about his heroes and the record that sends a shiver down his spine (though that may just be down to his poorly heated house…)

WHAT are you up to right now?

Writing for a BBC/RTÉ co-production called Roy, prepping for the London run of my play The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle, working on our new show and trying to find a blanket because our house is pretty much below freezing at any and all given times.

Who are your heroes?

In terms of writing, I absolutely love the greats like Brian Friel and Arthur Miller with a few more modern people like Martin McDonagh and Daniel Kitson thrown in there too. Because of the devastating weekend that’s just past as well, I should mention Brian O’Driscoll (right) too. He just can’t retire after that campaign.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I think I decided it was a cover of Satisfied Mind by Jeff Buckley a few years ago and haven’t really thought about it since, so yeah, let’s stick with that.

What record sends a shiver down your spine?

Was only recently introduced to Public Enemy’s Harder Than You Think via the Channel Four Paralympics ad and it’s an absolutely amazing song. I’m more or less about seven or eight years behind any movement in modern music at any given time.

What is your favourite place in Ireland?

Kells, Co. Meath.

What is your most treasured possession?

A friend (Dave Macentegart, who plays the lead in Eric Argyle) once got me a copy of a signed photo of Martin Sheen as President Bartlett from The West Wing. He got it off eBay and I’m pretty sure it’s made out to someone called ‘Justin’ but it’s on my wall regardless.

What makes you angry?

The number of things you’re now offered when you book a Ryanair flight.

What book influenced you most?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

Better central heating in our house, or gills.

What gives your life meaning?

Emm… friends and family.

Can you tell me a joke?

My friend told me that I continuously misuse the word ‘ironic’. Which is funny because we were standing at a bus stop at the time.

Can you recommend an interesting website? — Jimmy McMillan shot to prominence in the recent race for Governor of New York in 2010. I first encountered him yelling out his slogan out the window of a passing car while playing a jingle out of his boombox through the other window in New York in 2008. If that’s not a political movement you can get behind… well, what is?

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? At any given time you can only do two things really well.

When did you last cry?

Thankfully I recently rubbed chili in my eye while cooking so that would have be it. Otherwise it would be any number of plays or films that I routinely and embarrassingly tear up at.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Nothing… that’s not weird though, is it?

What is your favourite film and why?

Fairly boring answer but The Godfather II. Just think it’s the best movie ever made and the perfect blend of intimate and epic storytelling, complete with some of the greatest talent (in front of and behind the camera) ever assembled.

What is your passion?


What do you have hanging on your walls at home that you like looking at most?

A completely out of season ‘Letters to Santa’ stocking.

What trait do others criticise you for?

My bizarre inconsistencies when it comes to saving and spending money.

What is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen or heard?

When one of the actors from Eric Argyle mixed up the name of two characters names in the final bit of narration, making it appear as though one character, who had been dead for 30 years, was sitting in the car next to her. The audience had questions afterwards.

What is your favourite word one-liner or retort?

You’re a one-liner or retort.

What would your motto be?

Always bring a sandwich.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I think it involved being a professional sportsperson of some kind. It’s yet to work out. What are the best and worst things about where you live? The best thing is our proximity to the rehearsal space for The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle and the worst being (as mentioned several times before) the crippling cold that dwells within our abode. It was here first though, in fairness to it.

Which Irish work of art would you recommend most highly?

Faith Healer by Brian Friel.

The best thing about the past 12 months was…

Writing and touring The Life And Sort of Death of Eric Argyle with our phenomenally talented cast and brilliant crew.

My biggest goal over the next 12 months is…

To send Jimmy McMillan to congress. Or a place of marginally lower rent.

The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle is running in London’s Soho Theatre until April 20.


Steve Cummins

Steve is the Irish Post's digital media & entertainment editor and looks after the paper's website and weekly entertainment supplement, Rí-Rá. Follow him @steve_cummins

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