Emmet Kirwan - 'Dublin Oldschool' goes from play to big screen

By Aideen O'Flaherty 

A PASSIONATE DJ goes on a weekend-long bender that sees him intersecting with the gardai, his friends, and a long-lost brother who is struggling with drug addiction, in Emmet Kirwan’s new film ‘Dublin Oldschool’.

The Springfield native is a familiar face to people all over the country, owing to his key role in writing and performing on RTE’s ‘Sarah and Steve’ television show, and his moving spoken word pieces such as the arresting ‘Heartbreak’, which went viral last year.

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The former student of St Mark’s Community School also doesn’t shy away from political issues, having spoken out about the different experiences that he and the Taoiseach, Leo Vardakar, would’ve had when they both attended Trinity College, and he recently discussed drug policy at a town hall meeting that was held in the city centre by the Anna Liffey Drug Project.

Emmet took some time out from his busy schedule to talk to his local newspaper about his new film, and the representation of working-class people in the arts.

You previously performed ‘Dublin Oldschool’ as a play, why did you decide to make it into a film?

It was actually the director, Dave Tynan, who suggested it. I’d worked with him on short films before, like a spoken word piece I did called ‘Heartbreak’. He saw the play and said it would make a great film. There were a lot of locations and crowd scenes in the play, it was a piece of theatre. The beginning of the play is a rap and there were other elements, like a big rave – I wasn’t sure how it would work as a film but it came together.

You said in a previous interview that you made the film with a group of people that you’ve worked with for years. How important was it for them to be involved?

It wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t with them. Dave went to film school with a lot of people who worked on the film so we’ve all known each other for years. Everyone who was working on the film wanted to work on it.

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Have you seen the film on the big screen yet?

I haven’t seen it yet. There’s a weird thing about seeing yourself on the screen, where you just go, “Is my head really that small? Does my neck really look like that?” I’ve seen various different edits of the film, but I want to see it at the opening night with everyone else.

What impact do you hope the film will have on the audience?

When you’re writing a play or film you owe people a good time because they’ve come out to see it. You want them to have something that they can laugh at but that also resonates with them and their lives.

How did you strike a balance between the comedic and dramatic elements of ‘Dublin Oldschool’?

You can be at risk of circumventing the dramatic parts of the film if [the comedic scenes] aren’t right. The film shifts gears enough times, but it doesn’t do it abruptly where you’d have a comedic scene immediately following a dramatic scene.

How well do you think working-class voices and experiences are represented in the arts in Ireland today?

There’s definitely a lot more working-class voices and representations of working class life, but I don’t know that there’s enough. I was working on a film years ago and we were filming in a house in Tallaght, and it was decrepit. We’d leave the house that was basically falling apart and stay in the other houses in the area that were crystal clean. A lot of people in Tallaght are very house proud. I think it’s important to show what life is like in both of those houses. Some people mine a particular vein of working-class life that’s focused on abject poverty, but I want to show both sides.

Have you got any other projects in the pipeline?

I’m working on a play called ‘1990’. It’s set in a video shop in West Tallaght, between Fettercairn and Springfield, in the 1990s. It’s about a young gay guy and his best friend. They both inherited the video shop, and they both hate football so they try to avoid anything to do with it. They also run afoul of the guards because they sell condoms in the shop. I also have a radio drama called ‘Wild West’ that you can listen to on the BBC Radio 4 iPlayer now.


‘Dublin Oldschool’ is out on June 29.

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