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Billy Roche Biography

(1949– ), Tumbling Down, A Handful of Stars, Poor Beast in the Rain, Belfry, Amphibians, The Cavalcaders

set involving london shop

Irish dramatist, born in Wexford, Ireland, the son of a publican, educated in the same town. He worked in a car-seat factory, then went to England in an unsuccessful attempt to make his living as a folk-singer, but achieved some success when he returned to Ireland and formed his own touring rock band. A novel, Tumbling Down (1986), was followed by three plays which, like the novel, take place in his native Wexford. They are A Handful of Stars (1988), set in a pool hall and involving a young drifter slipping into crime; Poor Beast in the Rain (1989), set in a betting shop owned by a man whose wife has run off with a local ‘wild man’, Danger Doyle, to what has turned out to be a sad, lonely life in London; and Belfry (1991), set in a church and involving a sacristan who launches into a love affair with a married woman. After these plays, performed with great success in London in 1992 as the ‘Wexford trilogy’, came Amphibians (1992), about the decline of the same town's fishing industry and its traditions, and The Cavalcaders (1993), another elegiac comedy, this time involving a group of cobblers who have formed themselves into a barber-shop quartet during their spare hours. Roche's work is notable for its sympathetic, humorous, yet critical portrayal of a community that is both nourishing and stultifying and of the individuals whose lives are both positively and negatively shaped by those profoundly ambivalent roots.

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