Writer James Phelan concludes a busy year by contributing to the current BBC 2 NI series Na Deich nAitheanta ’(The Ten Commandments) . His instalment ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ broadcasts this Thursday night at 24.20.
The series is comprised of monologues based on witty contemporary takes on each individual commandment. The premise maintains an odd recurring trend in James’ nascent TV career. With the TG4 comedy drama Rasai na Gaillimhe loosely based on the seven deadly sins and this year’s sequel Rasai na Gaillimhe 2 touching lightly on the lesser known seven virtues, James jokingly admits he may become pigeon-holed as ‘the religious numbers guy’.
‘Na Deich nAitheanta’ series was produced by Ashlene Aylward and her Ulysses Films company after she issued an open call for ideas riffing on making the Ten Commandments humorously relevant to modern life. James concedes he has known the producer for a few years. ‘We originally met at an Equinoxe screenwriting workshop in Norway. I was there with my feature script and she was producing another feature. We bonded on a hovercraft trip down a fjord – which isn’t a sentence you get to use very often in life’.
James continues ‘I assumed ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ would be oversubscribed but I threw my entry into the mix. I was naturally pleased it was picked but I remained very hands off. I knew Ashlene had entrusted it to a great actor in Aodh Óg Ó Duibheannaigh. He rightly made the monologue his own and dispensed with a lot of my waffle.
Aodh Og played Charlie Burn in the much loved TG4 Irish language comedy series ‘C.U. Burn’.. In ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’, Aodh Og plays Christian a pest controller whose entire business is jeopardised when he is born again. Despite his claims to the contrary, will his true nature still emerge when put to the test? With a nod to the closing scene of ‘Psycho’, this short monologue packs a punch. The series runs late night this week and next with all episodes available on line after terrestrial broadcast.
James’ year has been bookended with work for TG4. ‘Rasai na Gaillimhe 2’ broadcast to glowing reviews earlier this year. The riotous comedy drama boasts stellar turns from a vast cast including Don Wycherley, Tom O Suilleabhain, Donncha Crowley, Owen Roe and Carrie Crowley. James confesses it’s a treat to write for such great actors. ‘Especially when writing for characters like Don’s politician chancer ‘Ultan Keane’ where you know Don is going to have a field day with the material.’ The original series was similarly well received winning the IFTA for Best Irish Language series in 2010.
The next project in development with TG4 for the Waterford writer is an inventive take on a period drama. The details of ‘Wrecking the Rising’ are still under wraps but the author admits the title is a giveaway about the 1916 setting. However, in the same breath he reveals, ‘we’re hoping to employ a really fresh inventive angle on the seismic events of Easter week by the addition of some fantastical elements that will shake up any notion of a staid dry period drama.’
James Phelan is represented by Holly Carey at Lisa Richards Agency.