'I didn't fancy being stuck in North Korea': the stormy thriller by a Japanese Ulsterman

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In Francis Turnly’s trilogy one schoolgirl becomes a cat and another goes missing. The sheep farmer turned dramatist discusses The Great Wave

‘I tick a variety of boxes,” says Francis Turnly, whose play The Great Wave is about to open in London at the National Theatre. “Asian, British, Irish, mixed, none of these. It changes, depending on how I feel that day.” Turnly’s father was a Northern Irish journalist who at one point taught English in Tokyo. There he met Turnly’s mother, and the family settled in County Antrim. When meeting people who are confused by the combination of his looks and accent, Turnly describes himself as “a Japanese Ulsterman”. Perhaps not surprisingly, he adds: “All my plays are about identity. I’ve often written about someone becoming someone else, someone turning into something else.”

In another sense, Turnly has an unusual background for a playwright – his first profession was sheep farmer. Since 2015, he has been away from the farm a lot – given an office in London as Channel 4 writer in residence at the Tricycle Theatre. During his post, Turnly wrote two plays, both set in Japan: The Great Wave and Neko. These are the second and third parts of a trilogy that began with Harajuku Girls in 2015.

I’m from the generation that was affected a little by the Troubles. At the moment, I feel safer in Belfast than London

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Link : ‘I didn’t fancy being stuck in North Korea’: the stormy thriller by a Japanese Ulsterman


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