Young Irish playwright on the up as EastEnders episode set to air
UPCOMING playwright and screenwriter Jonny O’Neill is to make the leap into soap operas this month when his debut EastEnders episode airs on September 15.
O’Neill, who grew up in London’s East End and has roots in Kilkenny, completed the episode earlier this year and commented that he “really enjoyed” the opportunity to write for the popular soap.
EastEnders remains one of the most popular TV shows in Britain, pulling in an average audience of 8.1 million viewers.
The TV broadcast comes in a busy month for the 28-year-old who will also see his debut play take to the stage in London on Thursday.
The Royal Duchess Superstore opens at the Broadway in Barking and probes the decline of traditional pub culture.
The play is based around an East End character named Terry (played by Mark Wingett) who returns to his local area of London after a 15-year prison sentence.
Terry discovers his local boozer, the Royal Duchess, has been sold off and the life he knew changed beyond recognition.
O’Neill told the Irish Post that whilst his play was rooted in the East End of London, its themes “run through the country”.
The 28-year-old added: “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It’s [about] people from an era. You might change the accent to a Yorkshire one or an Irish one, but it’s the same thing.
“It’s about the pub industry and how they’re closing down everywhere. People can’t even afford a round anymore.”
The play, which is directed by Karena Johnson, will run at the Broadway until Saturday 6 before transferring to the Half Moon in Limehouse from September 9 to September 21.
The playwright added that his grandfather William O’Neill was a Kilkenny man who worked in the Merchant Navy.
He said he felt strongly about his Irish roots and that he “grew up supporting Ireland”.
“[Irishness] taps into the East End, the f*** em all, backs-to-the-wall mentality,” said O’Neill, adding:
“It’s a spirit you have about you. It meant a lot to me.”