Kevin Higgins: Artistic Differences


Playwright Alan O’Brien

Kevin writes:

‘The poem below is loosely based on what happened to playwright Alan O’Brien when he won RTÉ’s PJ O’Connor Award for Radio Drama. His play was never broadcast, despite that being part of the prize, because of serious artistic differences between the playwright and the RTÉ producers who tried to fundamentally change the content of the play.

‘The judges that year were Marina Carr and Rachel West; they talk about the play here. Alan O’Brien talks a bit about experience with RTE here and here and the play can be heard here

‘I have dedicated the poem to Alan.’


I hope you won’t take this personally
but think your script about a woman starving to death
in a high rise flat which, let’s face it, she was lucky to have
in the first place, of limited appeal
to what we’ll broadly call people like me.

The scene in which she notices her ribs
through her skin
just after the electricity is cut off
and she’s unable to call anyone
because her phone is out of credit,
I found oddly lacking in optimism.

One realises such things happen at the margins
and probably more often than is, strictly speaking,
economically necessary. But one must make it relatable
for people who’ve gone through the Flaubertian trauma
of getting divorced three times in Dalkey
or, worse, not getting divorced at all
in the better portions of Moycullen.

The people I represent demand nuance
in which your script
with its protruding ribs
electricity cut off
and dead mobile is weirdly lacking.

The occasional joke wouldn’t go amiss either
particularly at your main character’s expense.
It would make her more empathy-inducing
for the woman  queueing
in the specialist cheese shop,
a key part of our audience.

And a romantic interest,
perhaps with the guy who was her social worker
before the cutbacks–
she keeps mentioning him –
would be a humanising addition.

Otherwise, she’s reduced to being a woman who dies
of failing to complete the forms required
to access the relevant supports,
which I’m sure must be out there
somewhere from some government agency or other.
Or one of those philanthropic trusts who assist such people.

I’m surmising here but find
I generally know what I’m talking about.

Kevin Higgins

Pic via Kilkee Online

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8 thoughts on “Kevin Higgins: Artistic Differences

  1. Eamon

    Yeah good poem. That’s not a sentence I’d normally use! Has anyone got anything good to say about rte?

  2. Gerry

    If the play were changed it wouldn’t be the play that won the competition. Is RTE drama seriously of the view that the tragedy is too tragic? They should broadcast the fupping play as agreed. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe listeners might think the play boring and depressing; well I have listened to plenty of hours of boring depressing rubbish on RTE radio that didn’t win a competition, who really gives a rodent’s posterior?

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