John Kelly, Irish painter and printmaker, 1932-2006

Press Cuttings They Have a Lot in Common

The two playwrights whose works will be presented by John Molloy at the Gate Theatre within the coming weeks have a good deal in common.

Each has written his first play, and both deal with life in Mountjoy Square area. Both writers know this area well. John Kelly was born in the Square, and Paddy Cullen just round the corner.

“The Third Day” will lead off the season. When I asked Mr. Kelly, a painter with three one-man exhibitions behind him, why he had switched to a new medium, he replied: I’ve something to say, and this time I think that a play gives me the best chance of saying it.”

When you’ve finished a painting, he reflected, you’ve said what you wanted to say. The work is then complete. A play, however, isn’t really completed until it has been through the hands of a director and actually staged. “So I wouldn’t let my play into the hands of just any person. I must trust and have faith in the director and the actors. I trust Yvonne Voigt (the director) and John Molloy (who plays Doyle).”

He went on: “To me a play must be visually satisfying, in addition to all the normal requirements. I see the shape of what happens on stage being dictated by the play itself. I see the patterns required to make the lines clear and I see the exact mime which matches them. It’s for that reason that the script is full of little sketches, showing what I want.”

A logical step from this is that John Kelly has designed his own sets. “I feel very strongly what the sets should contribute to a play. Too often the set is a conventional room. You could lower the curtain, have a murder in it, raise the curtain again, and no one in the audience would notice any difference. Of course a real room wouldn’t reflect the atmosphere of murder. But the theatre is a world of make believe which the audience needs. For me, the set must suggest the exact action that takes place in it. Murder, comedy, nonsense, whatever it is, it needs a unique setting. If the job is done properly, comedy couldn’t be played in a set designed for murder.”

M.O’S. (Maurice O’Sullivan), Evening Press, 22.07.1961