Owen McCafferty & Martin Lynch

Belfast's prizewinning playwright in conversation with Martin Lynch

Owen McCafferty’s Scenes from the Big Picture has attracted huge critical attention since its 2003 premiere at The Royal National Theatre in London. The play has enjoyed a six-week run in Washington DC, with McCafferty in attendance on the opening weekend for a Q&A session.

Under the diection of Belfast born Des Kennedy, the play was staged by Solas Nua Theatre Company, a company specialising in both feted and obscure work by contemporary Irish artists.

Four years after its inception, Scenes From The Big Picture has been produced by Prime Cut, one of NI's leading independent theatre companies.

Born in Belfast in 1961, McCafferty is viewed as one of the most distinctive writers currently emerging from theatre in Northern Ireland.

Combining a marked interest in experimentation in theatrical form and language with strong Belfast roots, his works are typically idiosyncratic and humane.

The playwright himself says he writes in a heightened Belfast dialect.

'One of the things that I'm interested in is trying to create a new Belfast theatrical speak.’

This ambition has won the writer considerable interest both at home and abroad.

McCafferty’s earlier professional work was mainly, though not exclusively, produced by a succession of newly emerging, independent companies in Belfast.

These include his 1994 monologue The Waiting List, premiered by Belfast’s Point Fields Theatre Company in 1994, which addressed themes of identity and place.

Freefalling, premiered by Kabosh in association with Virtual Reality in 1996, proved an exhilarating two-hander of breakneck dialogue based around young people seeking escape from dead-end existences.

Shoot the Crow (1997), the story of four men on the make during a typical day on a building site, was premiered by Galway based Druid theatre company, and more recently played at the Royal Exchange Studio, Manchester.

Successful as these were, McCafferty’s next work proved his major breakthrough. Set in 1970s Belfast, Mojo Mickybo allies a highly physical presentation style with McCafferty’s uncompromising Belfast theatrical speak. The result is a whirlwind theatrical adventure.

Terry Loane’s film adaptation, Mickybo and Me, premiered in 2005 and has scooped awards since it hit the screens.

McCafferty’s work since has largely alternated between presentations in Belfast and London. The Royal National Theatre, where McCafferty served as Writer-on-Attachment in 1999, recently premiered two highly successful works, Closing Time (2002) as part of the National Theatre's Loft season, and Scenes from the Big Picture (2003).

Plays for radio, meanwhile, include The Elasticity of Supply and Demand and The Law of Diminishing Returns.

In the main, however, McCafferty has been praised for finding fresh ways to write about his society, producing drama which is not issue based Troubles work, but where uncertainty and violence are nonetheless present.