Gary Owen is one of the hottest, young playwrights in Britain. In 2002, he won the George Devine Award and Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival, and in 2003 he added the Meyer Whitworth Award and the Pearson Best Play Award to his record. On January 12, Owen’s play Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco (translated Glæpur gegn Diskóinu) will open in the City Theater. Gary Owen himself will be present at the premiere of his play, experiencing for the first time his own writing in a language he doesn’t understand.
/// Among the reviews of your work, there are various descriptions of you as a playwright, ranging from “a blazing new talent”, “an angel with a foul mouth.”
– Yeah, that’s my favourite one.
/// And a review that calls you “dishonest, egotistic and narcissistic.” Any comments on these descriptions?
– The woman who called me egotistic, everyone knows she’s mad. I think she was asked to leave the premiere of Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco in London because she was being too loud.
/// From what I’ve heard, you’re getting quite tired of begin asked why you wrote this particular play?
– Not really, it’s just a really boring story. People ask me that and get disappointed when I tell them. I was unemployed and had nothing better to do. What happened was that I wrote it for my friends who were actors, and they didn’t like it so they didn’t do it. So the play sat on my shelf for about two years, and then I got a job at the BBC, see this is the boring part, and got an agent who read it and started sending it out to people until a company called Paines Plough London decided to do it.
/// Did it undergo a lot of changes?
– Yes, I mean, you know… I suppose I started writing it in 1997 and it was put on in 2001. Many times I looked at it and redid it, or looked at it in horror.
/// What countries has Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco been to?
– Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece I think, Australia, Canada, I went to that, and I think somebody’s doing it in Brazil.
/// How does your work being on display all over the world make you feel?
– It’s incredibly gratifying. It’s such a shock that people all over the world would like to see something I wrote just to amuse myself, especially this play. It’s incredibly odd.
/// Have you seen any of the performances of CGMD outside of the UK?
– No, but I wanted to. I only go if I can go for free. I saw the one in Canada, which was really funny because the play was still set in Wales but they did it in a Canadian accent. We don’t have the same swear words, and it was the funniest thing to hear the actors attempting to say British swear words in a Canadian accent. Quite often, people in the audience were laughing at the play, not with it. And there I was, the author of the play going: “That’s so funny!”
/// How does a play set specifically in South Wales, with a Welsh attitude, work in other countries like Sweden and Germany?
– I didn’t know it was on in Sweden, I wasn’t told about it. I don’t want to characterise people according to what nation they’re from, but they asked incredibly specific questions in Germany, like whether or not I intended the meanings of the characters’ names to convey anything. They told me that Gary meant “spear bearer,” which is not something I was aware of.
/// Is this play written for its own sake, or is it a form of social commentary?
– (long silence) It was mainly just me settling scores with people who have annoyed me throughout my life by turning them into characters people would laugh at. It’s a nasty play now that I think about it; now that I look back on what I’ve been doing, it’s just horrible.
(For information and tickets to Glæpur gegn Diskóinu, contact Borgarleikhúsið at 568-8000 or go to www.borgarleikhus.is)