Interview: John McKay, writer of Dead Dad Dog (Finborough Theatre)

Currently entertaining pub theatre audiences in Earl’s Court, John McKay’s play Dead Dad Dog is written by Emmy and Bafta-award winner John McKay.

Read on below for a Q&A with McKay.

You can see the show until 28 Oct at the Finborough Theatre, London, then it heads to Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, 1-4 Nov.

Tickets available for both venues at

Photograph of John McKay and Luz Carruthers

Dead Dad Dog premiered in 1987 at the Edinburgh Traverse. How did the play come about?

My dad had died when I was twelve and, having spent my teens determinedly NOT talking about it. By the time I was 22, I figured I had something to say..

It just so happens that lying in your childhood single bed back home, having got back from the pub late on Christmas Day will draw it out of you.

Growing up through the twilight of the 1970s into the alternative comedy scene of the mid-1980s and helping to form the radical left-wing act, the
Merry Mac Fun Show had a large part to play in it, too.

You now have an Emmy and a Bafta for your work as a director for TV and film. How did your theatre experience shape this branch of your career?

I guess I did theatre and comedy first because these were things you could do, with just a few mates and a pad of paper. I was always reaching for a more immersive form of
entertainment though – theatre, in particular, seemed so polite at that point. I was always asking them to turn it up!

But I guess the self-reliant, live ethic has run through my screen work and the way I make it – I still prefer 10 great people on a minibus about to make a scene on a mountain to 200 hanging about in a studio.

How does creating theatre now compare to making something in the late 80s?

There are so many more voices allowed now, and ways of making a show, which I think is great. I think the business of theatre has become more commodified, like everything else we do. But it’s still about reaching out to people.

The Merry Macs used to flypost after a show – now it’s about how lush your insta is.

What made you return to stage work? Why now for Dead Dad Dog?

You can largely thank my good friend and old colleague, the wonderful director Liz Carruthers, for offering me the opportunity to bring Dead Dad Dog back to life.

If it hadn’t been for her securing a spot at the Finborough, then the Traverse, and asking for my
blessing for the revival I’m sure I’d be off doing something else just as exciting behind a screen, but it’s so great to be back in theatres.

Can you describe Dead Dad Dog in a sentence?

A cocky young guy has his big day ruined by the ghost of his cheesy father.

What can you tell us about the cast and creative team for Dead Dad Dog?

Liz Carruthers is a brilliant director with a long history in Scottish theatre and a knack for casting excellent old hands and fresh new talent alike.

Angus Miller, our new Eck, is
incredibly talented and funny. Him against Liam Brennan, one of Mark Rylance’s leading players from the Globe, makes a delightful pairing.

Completing the team is Alex Marker, the hottest designer in London Fringe theatre, and the amazing Rachel Sampley with her brilliant lighting and projection – something practically unheard of in the 1980s!

What’s next on the cards for you?

I’m very excited that the first feature film I’ve produced is off to Tallinn in November for its international premiere. It’s the amazing Aylin Tezel’s Falling Into Place (co-produced with Weydemann Bros of Berlin).

In between that and Dead Dad Dog, I’ve got a couple of other projects on the go – an adaptation of Rachelle Atalla’s twisty bunker novel The Pharmacist and Lovesong to Lavender Menace, a sparkling gay romcom from brilliant Scottish
playwright and screenwriter James Ley.

Follow Dead Dad Dog on Twitter and Instagram.

What do you think?

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