TV - Mayflies

Ahead of the two-part drama adaptation airing next week on BBC One and BBC Scotland, read a short Q & A with Mayflies novelist Andrew O’Hagan...

Press Release

Everyone has a Tully Dawson (Tony Curran) - the friend who defines your life. In the summer of 1986, in a small Scottish town, Jimmy (Martin Compston) and Tully ignite a brilliant friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over and the locked world of their fathers before them, they rush towards the climax of their youth - a magical weekend in Manchester, the epicentre of everything that inspires them in working-class Britain. There, against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded, a vow is made: to go at life differently. Thirty years on, half a life away, the phone rings. Tully has the worst kind of news, and a request that will test their friendship, love, and loyalty to the limit…

Adapted by Andrea Gibb (Elizabeth Is Missing) and directed by Peter Mackie Burns (Rialto) from Andrew O’Hagan’s acclaimed novel, Mayflies is a memorial to youth’s euphoria and to everyday tragedy. A tender goodbye to an old union, it discovers the joy and the costs of love.

Could you give us an overview of Mayflies and what your inspiration was behind writing it?

Mayflies is the story of a group of guys who grow up together in Ayrshire, about their love of music and politics in 1986, and what happens to them thirty years later. The early part of the drama centres around a famous concert they attended in Manchester, but many years later, they are forced to ask what friendship is all about, and how reliable are your old pals?

Could you tell us about the key characters?

Tully is the heroic front-man of the young boys; Jimmy is his best friend, already a budding writer in 1986. Jimmy is shy and unsure of how to find his place in the world and Tully provides a shining, working-class example: everybody loves him, he’s true to himself, he’s really good at life, but as the story unfolds the boys and their wives – the powerful Anna and the sensitive Iona – are put to the test when terminal illness suddenly enters the picture.

Were you involved in the casting at all?

As an Executive Producer, I took a great interest in the production. Finding the right actors to play these boys was a crucial task from the beginning. We looked at a lot of very talented people but the ones we found seemed to burst with energy and understanding. Casting is a tough game and it keeps you up at night!

What aspects of the story do you think audiences will relate to?

Everybody has a friend, and, though romantic love gets all the big headlines – all the songs, all the big movies – male friendship is a kind of love that is often ignored. You can live your whole life in company with a friend, and I think audiences will really relate to the glories, the challenges and the responsibilities it brings. Mayflies set out to capture that. Also the unforgettable intensity and magic of youth; I was hoping people would be reminded of that, and see how it reverberates all through your life.

Did you manage to visit set at all? If so, how was that experience?

I was on the set a lot, mainly as a cheerleader and a mascot. I wanted to be available to the screenwriter, Andrea, to the director, Peter, and to the actors, who would often ask me about a particular detail or a local Scottish habit from the past. Authenticity was important to us all and I tried to pitch in and assist where I could. It was also just fun to be with these brilliant people as they worked to tell this very warm-hearted story.

How did you find the production process?

I loved it. I mean, intense and difficult, very long hours, working at breakneck speed, but I loved the process of putting something into the world that wasn’t there before. It’s very different from the process of writing alone at a desk, and I became a bit addicted to the determination and gang-feeling we all had, all pitching in and stepping back. It felt very natural and I was deeply proud of the cast and crew in bringing Mayflies to life.

How would you describe Mayflies in one sentence?

A story of lifelong friendship and what it costs.

What do you hope TV audiences take away from the adaptation of Mayflies?

I think they’ll take away joy and sadness, humour and reflection, a sense of life’s big questions amid the best soundtrack ever to hit the BBC.

Mayflies starts on BBC One on 28th December at 9pm to 10pm (BBC Scotland on 27th at 10pm to 11pm) with the second and concluding episode the following evening.

Images - BBC

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