Writer Alan McMonagle on the story behind his darkly comic new Drama On One play...

As an adult, I have been writing for over a decade and a half. Every day is still the first day. To date, I have published three books. Two collections of short stories, both with small but dogged presses: Liar Liar (Wordsonthestreet, 2008) and Psychotic Episodes (Arlen House, 2013).

Listen: Drama On One: Shirley Temple Killer Queen by Alan McMonagle

In 2017, Ithaca, my fist novel was published by Picador. A second novel (Laura Cassidy's Walk Of Fame) is scheduled to appear early in 2020. I have also developed a great fondness for radio drama. And have had three radio plays transmitted on RTE Radio One's Sunday evening Drama on One.

My first radio play was called Oscar Night. It featured two (seemingly) sweet old ladies and their annual ritual of watching the Academy Awards Ceremony. On this particular 'Oscar night' their viewing is interrupted by an escaped felon who thinks he has landed on his feet. Little does he realize how swiftly the tables are about to be turned on him. Transmitted early in 2014 and directed by Gorretti Slavin, it featured veterans of stage and screen, Áine Ní Mhuirí and Máire Hastings, along with star-in-the-making Emmet Kirwan in the role of Oscar.

From RTÉ Radio 1's Drama On One podcast, Oscar Night by Alan McMonagle

My second radio play, People Walking On Water (2017), concerned two lost souls who have arrived at a seemingly farcical impasse over staunch claims that a varied assortment of individuals can be seen walking across the harbour waters. It featured the well-travelled Eamon Morrissey alongside Muiris Crowley and Manus Halligan, and once again the inspirational Gorretti Slavin was at the helm.

From RTÉ Radio 1's Drama On One podcast, People Walking On Water by Alan McMonagle starring Eamon Morrissey, Muiris Crowley and Manus Halligan in the tale of two argumentative men, a tricksy bridge and one almighty chancer

Shirley Temple Killer Queen is my latest radio play. It's a darkly-comic offering, involving a pair of sibling sister assassins-for-hire who have just rocked up at the location for their very last kill – a ramshackle bar that has most definitely seen better days. Into the bar they swagger, along with plenty of ammo, two guns, one switchblade knife and enough attitude to ensure that the overly inquisitive barkeep is not going to give them the runaround. But something feels 'off' about the set-up. And several rounds of their favourite cocktails later, our sibling assassins are about to discover what that something is.

There is lots of dark humour, one or two moments that reach into the macabre, and we are always very much in the realm of the absurd

We had an acting dream team for the production. Nyree Yergainharsian and Rebecca Grimes are wonderfully contradictory, unpredictable and surprising as the pair of sibling assassins. David Pearse is pitch-perfect as the barkeep who must somehow get his head around this 'baying-for-blood' pairing arrived into his premises. It's quite a stylised piece. There is lots of dark humour, one or two moments that reach into the macabre, and we are always very much in the realm of the absurd. All-in-all I think the play owes a large part of its conception to lengthy stretches of my youth spent in the company of late-night Film Noir. Fast-talking gumshoes and even faster-talking women. The title is a composite of the two cocktails my chalk-and-cheese siblings like to drink. The off-kilter tone of the piece ensured plenty of fun putting it together.

This is also my third time collaborating with Gorretti Slavin. She can articulate better than I ever can the precise appeal of radio drama, and the possibilities she can discern in my offerings to date. I like the collaborative aspect of the form. I like using dialogue to tell stories. I enjoy handing over a script to a director who understands what it is the text is trying to do and can transfer this understanding to the actors. I love being around actors. Watching them interact, listening to their take on character, seeing them time and time again lift a piece of writing thrillingly off the page. I think there is something wondrous in that a hitherto unknown to each other ensemble (writer, director, cast and crew) can come together and somehow magic up a piece of effective drama.

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