A Bit About Dennis Kelly
Dennis Kelly is renowned in the theatre for writing gritty and sometimes controversial plays, and has been writing consistently for theatre, film and television throughout the past 20 years. Kelly has written over 20 plays to date and continues to create gripping work. He received great acclaim for co-writing the book for Matilda the Musical with Tim Minchin, which won several awards, transferred to the West End in 2011 and toured the globe. Alongside his success in the theatre, he has written numerous television series including the conspiracy thriller Utopia and the sitcom Pulling, and he also wrote the film ‘Black Sea’.
Born in North London in 1970, Kelly grew up in an Irish Catholic family. He left school at age 16 and worked at Sainsbury’s supermarkets. A friend of his convinced him to join a local youth theatre group, the Barnet Drama Centre. Later he decided to study theatre formally and graduated from Goldsmiths College at the University of London with First Class Honours in Drama and Theatre Arts.
Initially, Kelly started writing with a mind to give himself an acting role, but after the success of his debut work Debris he realised that he wanted to keep at writing. Prior to this discovery, Kelly had felt frustrated working a number of uninspiring jobs including packing vegetables and packing art and felt alcoholism creep up on him over the years. He discussed later in his life that letting go of alcohol allowed him to let go of fear and insecurity and really live his life.
Kelly has dived into various dark themes in his work over the years, with preoccupations including the dangers of isolationism, resource scarcity, suspicion of outsiders due to the war on terror and grief. He has discussed the freedom he experiences as a writer to write truthfully about the things people think about but rarely admits to people around them.
Top Five Dennis Kelly Plays
- DNA (2008)
- Orphans (2009)
- Osama the Hero (2005)
- Debris (2003)
- Love and Money (2006)
Dennis Kelly Quotes
“What I liked about [studying theatre at age 29] was that I was young enough to still be interested in learning, but old enough to have a bit of life experience, and be grateful for the opportunity to learn. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It changed the way I think about a lot of things.”
“Honesty is what gives a good drama its flesh and blood.”
“What’s more important than being political is being true to yourself. That sounds so hippy, but you’ve got to write the thing you believe in. If you want to write a play about relationships, write it: don’t write a play about Syria, because the play about Syria needs to be written by the person who cares about that.”