Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to catch Eris, a new play by writer John King during it’s limited run at the Bunker. I enjoyed it so much, I was lucky enough to grab a few moments of John’s time to find out more about the play. You can read my 4 star review of Eris here.
HS: What can you tell us about ERIS and what inspired you to write the play?
JK: ERIS is about an Irish man in London who feels hurt when his long-term boyfriend is excluded from a family wedding back home. They’ve actually just broken up, but he gets it into his head to find the most disruptive plus-one possible to bring along instead. It’s a (very loose!) riff on the Greek myth of the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, which was interrupted by Eris, the goddess of strife.
I’m not sure what inspired the play exactly, but I wrote the first draft of it eight months after Ireland’s marriage referendum, at a time when I think a lot of us overseas were recalibrating our relationship with home.
HS: Seeing as this is your first play, what advice would you give to those looking to start writing their own?
JK: I don’t really feel qualified to give writing advice! I’d say remember to enjoy it and don’t be afraid to reach out to collaborators, especially if you’re stuck. Writing doesn’t have to be solitary if it’s not working for you. I know I’ve learned the most about what’s working and what’s not by hearing it out loud, and seeing how an audience responds to it, so getting it on its feet and sharing even a little bit of it at the right stage can be so useful.
HS: Were you influenced by other LGBT+ plays while writing your play?
JK: I discovered Tim Miller’s performance work in a collection called Body Blows a few months before I started ERIS. I think excitement about his stuff, which was unlike anything I’d read, was still playing on me when I started writing. He’s so present with his audience and there’s a pervasive warmth to how he writes, whether he’s being provocative or deeply intimate or flirty. You fall in love with him a little bit.
Another thing I read around that time was Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness. There’s a chapter in that book called ‘Unhappy Queers’ which I’ve come back to again and again. I’m sure some of it wormed its way into my thinking about the figure of Eris. Ahmed says that the Unhappy Queer is unhappy with a world that reads queers as fundamentally unhappy people (i.e. as people who cause unhappiness by failing to inherit/reproduce certain hetero structures). That paraphrasing is terrible – go read it for yourself! – but it was a big factor in figuring out how I wanted the play to end.
HS: How collaborative was director Robbie Taylor Hunt in the process of bringing the play to life?
JK: Very! Robbie and I both did a Milk Presents workshop at the Young Vic on queering Brecht last October, and I sent him the script afterwards because I thought he might be a good fit for it. I had a bunch of outstanding questions about how the choral scenes in the play were working. ERIS has a chorus who play most of the characters, voice Seán’s unvoiced thoughts, and create different soundscapes through the scenes. Robbie has a really playful collaborative approach and is great at making everyone in the room feel comfortable and engaged. I’d kind of fallen out of love with the play at that point and he got me excited about it again. He’d lead rehearsals and I’d rewrite stuff as we went.
Huge thanks to John for taking the time to tell us more about Eris. For tickets and more information on the show please visit https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/eris, be quick as the final performance is September 28th.
Until next time,