Language Roulette

© By Daragh Carville

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A group of old friends reunites at the beginning of the Northern Ireland ceasefire. Drinks are drunk and pills are popped. It’s Pound for a Pint night - and Ollie has Twenty pounds. But then the games start ...

Characters - Joseph, Colm, Tim, Anna, Ollie & Sarah

ANNA Why didn’t you just stay in France or Germany or wherever you were? Why?
JOSEPH Because –
ANNA Why? We don’t want you here
JOSEPH (Seriously, pleadingly) Because I’d learned those languages, Anna. I’ve finished with them. I had to come back here and talk to you.
COLM To her?
JOSEPH To all of you. In my own words. In my own language.
ANNA Bullshit. Pretentious bullshit.
JOSEPH It’s the truth. I shouldn’t have bothered. I might’ve known you’d be like this.
COLM Like what?
JOSEPH It’s pathetic.
COLM What’s pathetic?
JOSEPH You are. You are fucking pathetic, Colm. With your baby Jesus and your sausages triangles –
COLM Well if it’s pathetic to teach kids to read –
JOSEPH It’s not about your job. I don’t care about your job.
COLM Just because I believe in something.
JOSEPH But you’ll believe in anything. You even believe in me! For fuck’s sake, why can’t you stand up for once and –
ANNA What? Punch you in the face?

Daragh Carville says that Language Roulette was an attempt to write a play that dealt with the Northern Ireland situation in a new way. “Like many people I had grown tired of the way the place was constantly being portrayed in terms of iconography of the Troubles. there were too many Balaclava Dramas, as we called them. They didn’t seem to reflect the more complex realities of the place we actually lived in. so I knew from the outset the kind of play I didn’t want to write - love across the barricades, etc. But at the same time, Northern Ireland was changing so fundamentally at the time that I knew the play has to reflect that too. So while I wanted to avoid the iconography of the Troubles, I still wanted to reflect in some way on the issues involved. As Paul Muldoon has said ‘All writers in Northern Ireland during this period faced the same problem: deal with the Troubles head on and you stand to be accused of exploitation or trivialization, ignore them and write about something else and you’ve got your head in the sand. So rather than tackle the Troubles head-on a lot of writers tried to find other ways of coming at the subject, coming at it crabwise, as it were. And that’s certainly what I was trying to do with Language Roulette. And I think it worked.”

The play sold out at the Old Museum and on tour, attracting a whole new audience to the theatre, an audience who seemed to find the play spoke to them in a new way. The piece was revived for a second run the year after, and went on to complete sell-out runs at the Bush Theatre in London and the Traverse in Edinburgh. It won both the Stewart Parker and the Meyer Whitworth Awards.

Further Infomation


Old Museum Arts Centre - 27 May 1996






Tinderbox Theatre Company (first production)Belfast (May 1996)
Pretty Vacant Theatre Company, Berlin (Sept 2001)
New Art Theater, New Hampshire, USA (March 1999)
Czech language rehearsed reading, Prague (2006)


Lyn Gardner in The Guardian: “the writing is inspired”.
John Peter in the Sunday Times: “I recommend this play very, very highly”.