Mouthpiece: interview with author Kieran Hurley

Poster image for Kieran Hurley's Mouthpiece
Poster image for Kieran Hurley’s Mouthpiece

Fresh from a successful run at the Traverse, Edinburgh, Mouthpiece is soon to open at the Soho Theatre. I caught up with Kieran Hurley to find out a bit more about the piece and the man behind it.

Mouthpiece has had a successful run at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. How do you think London audiences will take to it?

Ha, you never can tell I suppose. In some ways the play is distinctly of and about Edinburgh. There is, I hope, a real sense of place running through it. But there’s nothing about the story that shouldn’t be absolutely relevant to a London audience. The big themes around a class divide in a city’s culture seem to me to be relevant wherever you go.

It feels to me like a play that will find a great home at Soho. I did a show called Beats here a few years ago which was every bit as Scottish in its dialect but that didn’t prove a barrier to audiences at all. I think people here are more used to differently accented stories, it’s a cosmopolitan place after all. Even though it’s a cliché, I think there’s something about the universal in the specific – the play’s really rooted in Edinburgh but that doesn’t mean that its reach is limited to there.

You’ve described it as a love story, and about class, power, and exploitation.  Can you expand a bit more on that?

Well, it’s a love story in that it’s about two people who in very different ways are both bereft and lonely and desperate when they meet. And they both answer a kind of need that the other has, through their unlikely relationship. They kind of complete each other, or awaken something in each other. Until the inherent power dynamics in the relationship kind of devour it and make it impossible to sustain. So that’s kind of like a love story, I think!

The class and exploitation stuff is really what it says on the tin. It’s about who does and doesn’t get to speak in our culture, along class lines. And it’s about the inherent violence of being forced to depend on someone else to give acknowledgement or voice to your story. The reason I’m keen to emphasise the love story bit is that it’s about people trying to figure their way through a relationship and I hope that’s funny, and human, and sad in all the ways that it should be.

Lorn Macdonald in Mouthpiece. Photo credit Roberto Ricciuti.

Can you tell me a bit about the ethical questions you explore within the play, especially around visibility in creative works?

The first thing to say is that the play isn’t setting out to say we can’t or shouldn’t try to write beyond our own experiences. But it’s about how that sometimes happens, and who tends to be empowered and privileged in that relationship and who tends to get sidelined. In a sense, the big ethical question is actually probably about consent, and what happens when consent breaks down in the relationship between subject and writer. It becomes a question of who ultimately owns stories, and who do we give the authority to tell and construct them.

What’s next for Kieran Hurley? What’s the next stage in your evolution as a playwright?

I wish I could say for certain. It would certainly make me less anxious because what exactly comes next, in my experience, is often a bit dependent on decisions beyond my control. I’m working on a couple of things, some larger scale multi-character stuff that I don’t want to say too much about in case I jinx it. There are a few things lined up that should hopefully come to fruition over the next year or two. And I have a film out this year. It’s an adaptation of the aforementioned play Beats, so that’s an exciting new development for me.

I cut my teeth in all this making solo shows, in a kind of storytelling form, that I’d perform myself and I want to keep doing that too. It’s usually a couple of years after having finished touring the last one that I get the itch, so the time is about right in that cycle for me to get into a room and make another show like that. I dunno what it’ll be yet though.

And finally, if you were to describe Mouthpiece in three words, which would you choose?

Rules should be broken.

Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh in Mouthpiece. Photo credit Roberto Ricciuti.
Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh in Mouthpiece. Photo credit Roberto Ricciuti.

My thanks to Kieran. Mouthpiece plays at the Soho Theatre from the 2nd April – 4th May 2019, and more details can be found at