When I meet Kevin Kiely Junior, Creative Director of the TomCat Festival, it is four hours to the launch of the festival and the team is trying to hang a giant metal eagle above Augustinian Lane.
Our conversation takes place in between various raisings and lowerings of the metallic creature.
“My name is Kevin Kiely Junior and I was born in Limerick and brought up on the Ballysimon road. I went to drama school at the Guilford School of Acting between the years of 2006–2009.”
Kevin has worked hard since then landing jobs in The Old Vic in the West End in a production of Six Degrees of Separation. He then went on to work in films such as The Dark Knight Rises and World War Z. “I played the cop at the beginning. It was in the trailer. Brad Pitt gets out of his car and a cop shouts at him and the cop gets killed. That’s me! It surprises a lot of people because they use it for the trailer and it’s really cool. I was very grateful to be involved with that.”
Kevin lived in London for a while, “I didn’t really ever get my feet rooted into London. I didn’t really get the community spirit that I get in abundance in Limerick.” Kevin returned to Limerick in 2013 and did The Tempest for Puck Fair, “then City of Culture happened and Limerick took hold and grabbed me.”
When asked why he decided to stay in Limerick he says that the people here get on with things. “Notions don’t survive in Limerick, if you are going to work here as an artist you have to continually show up, you have to be fresh and you have to challenge yourself because the people here are very hard to impress and I like the challenge of that. If you impress them, they are impressed, they are not going to feign interest.”
Limerick’s infrastructure and cultural supports are important to Kevin, “You’re able to have an event attended by a quarter of a million people and Limerick is able to absorb that as an area. As a city it’s all really impressive. Then it can offer support to smaller productions as well and be equally powerful and moving.”
Speaking of his own productions in Limerick, Kevin is ready to face the challenges and successes. “I produced a show called The Prison of Oil. One of the nights there was two people at it. Two people saw a show that was for them; it was really intense and audience interaction was total. People asked me if that was a wakeup call and I said no. If you’re going to make work, you make the work. The people come and then the people tell other people. One particular review on Facebook meant that for the last three nights we were sold out. I ran it for two weeks.”
Kevin has recently returned from Cannes, where his film Cheesebox was featured in the short film corner of the Cannes Film Festival. “Cheesebox is a story about my grandfather and a night in his life where he has to deal with an emergency in his family. It’s a statement piece we made in Janesboro last year. It’s a piece that I really believe will start a conversation that needs to happen because wherever I screen the film people come up to me and tell me their experience of the same thing.”
“I have four sisters and no brothers. My work in general is about the empowerment of women and the damage of the ego. The Prison of Oil was about the damage the ego can cause if one man is given a blank canvas of power.” His other recent show, Specifically. Being. Human., was made in conjunction with Angie Smalis and Paddy Mulcahy. “The whole thing was a metaphor. A man and a woman in a cube for 45 mins to an hour with no dialogue. It’s about how quickly women have to and are able to change their mind, change their behaviour in order to make a social situation safe for themselves. There’s nothing so formidable as a woman in my opinion.”
“I don’t think the bid will knock a stitch out of the city whether we get it or not. What it is doing is creating a conversation, a structure, an interaction.” The bid process has even helped with Kevin’s work, “It’s filling my phone book, email inbox, contacts with relevant people. My phone is ringing with interesting conversations and interesting interactions.”
Later this year Kevin’s company IsleBoro Productions aims to put on Hamlet and further down the line he has ambitious plans to bring The Tempest to King John’s Castle. Stay tuned to the IsleBoro Facebook page for more details.