New play from Liam Heylin set for UCC’s Granary Theatre

All the world’s a stage for playwright and journalist Liam Heylin, whose latest play, West for the Weekend, is about a lawyer with a gambling problem.

New play from Liam Heylin set for UCC’s Granary Theatre

Heylin, a court reporter for the Irish Examiner and Evening Echo and a theatre critic for the latter newspaper, moonlights as a playwright. His popular comedy, Love, Peace and Robbery, returned to the Everyman recently, having had several productions since it was first performed in 2007.

While that play focused on the criminal underworld, West for the Weekend is about white-collar crime. “I always felt I was going to write a play about a gambler,” says Heylin. “Gambling is one of those extreme approaches to life, which is very colourful, unlike my personal approach which would be safer. It’s attractive to look at a gambler figure that is feckless and wild and takes chances. A gambler is a dramatic type of character in real life to begin with and lends itself to representation in theatre.”

While court reporting, Heylin has observed the rise of gambling-related crime in recent years. “I can’t count the number of reports I’ve written about people who have ended up involved in theft or some kind of white-collar crime to keep one step ahead of the bookie.”

Heylin’s comedy is set in April 2008, just as the economic crash was about to occur. “I decided the gambler figure would be a lawyer. I didn’t want to be heavy-handed in terms of what that says about Ireland. But I felt a lawyer figure would have a strong resonance. You’d be surprised at the amount of lawyers gambling. We’ve seen lawyers who’ve become notorious in the last few years. It’s almost shocking that they see themselves being dealt with in the criminal courts.”

West for the Weekend is a one-man show in which Chris Schmidt-Martin plays Sully, the lawyer, as well as the various people in his life. “He is a trickster, trying to manipulate everybody and every situation. That extends to his love life as well as his financial life. He finds himself taking money from the client account of the firm he works in.

“The client account is down by €35,000. Over a weekend, Sully, who has €1,500 to play around with, puts it on a fairly complex accumulator involving different sporting events. As the play develops, there’s a chance he may win the bet and that, in his view, would solve all his problems. If he doesn’t win, everything will go belly up on him.”

The play is not a morality tale. “I just wanted to immerse myself in a colourful character and follow the comedy and show how preposterous some of the character’s actions are.”

While Sully is flawed and wreaks havoc on the people in his life, Heylin says he couldn’t write the character unless he had some redeeming features.

The court of law is a rich repository of material for a writer like Heylin. “You can find material in court on any given day. I’m not necessarily looking for the big drugs bust or the great story. I’m more likely to be inspired by some small scrap of detail that would nearly get away from me on a busy day. It can be something that jars or something that has some sort of human comedy or tragedy about it.”

* West for the Weekend is at UCC’s Granary Theatre, September 9-13.

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