Advocates: Bernard Farrell

Bernard Farrell is an Irish dramatist who has worked extensively on stage, m screen and radio. His first play, I Do Not Like Thee, Doctor Fell is probably his best known work.


"It was easy to forget, in his courteous and self-effacing presence, that Alan Ayckbourn is one of the world’s most successful playwrights, with more plays to his name than Shakespeare, comedies that probe and often skewer the pretensions of the English middle classes, occasionally with compassion but always with humour. In his work, it often seems that the darker the moment the more hysterically riotous the comedy becomes.

"In his 1973 comedy
Absurd Person Singular, there is a tragic sequence of events where a depressed wife desperately tries to kill herself, first at the oven, then with tablets at the sink, and later with a rope at an overhead light-fitting. Every attempt is foiled by someone who innocently walks in and assumes she is either cleaning the oven or unblocking the sink or changing a light-bulb... and all the time her suicide notes are being accidentally destroyed. These are moments of heartbreaking tragedy and yet, in the writing, everything is pitched to an almost farcical level where hysterical laughter is elicited from an audience that desperately wants to empathise with the plight of this woman.

"I remember discussing how this was achieved and I mentioned my own forays into this comic style. He listened intently as I described circumstances and scenes, occasionally asking about moments of reaction and moments of silence. He then suggested that if I achieved that response 'you were doing everything right. Hopefully,' he continued, 'on the way home, they will guiltily wonder why they laughed at such human horror and will then deeply ponder the tragedy. You will have put the knife in without anyone noticing.'

"I have constantly cherished his words throughout my playwriting career - including his wry advice to 'only begin to worry when you start winning awards and emptying theatres'”.
Copyright: Bernard Farrell. All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd, please credit this website if reproduced.