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Dennis Kelly's cruelest creations

From massacre-happy hitman Arby to terrifying tranny Miss Trunchbull, Dennis Kelly gives us the lowdown on his best bad guys

Dennis Kelly
© Lena Zimmer
By Daisy Bowie-Sell |
Villains are a speciality of Dennis Kelly, the creator of Channel 4’s shocking ‘Utopia’ and the unstoppable West End smash ‘Matilda’. As his latest malefactor – the Clerk in Georg Kaiser’s ‘From Morning to Midnight’ – appears at the National Theatre, we asked Kelly to talk us through his most monstrous characters.
Bertie Carvel, Miss Trunchbull, Matilda
© Manuel Harlan

Evil dragged-up headmistress Miss Trunchbull in ‘Matilda the Musical’

‘In the first draft, I probably enjoyed Miss Trunchbull too much. Roald Dahl’s widow was really supportive, but she said “You must remember Miss Trunchbull is a murderer.” She was right – you’ve got to keep a bit of darkness there. I wasn’t sure about having a man play Miss Trunchbull in case she wouldn’t feel genuinely scary. But when I saw a bloke playing her in workshops, I was converted: it was fucking brilliant!’

Utopia, Arby

Arby, the misunderstood child killer in British conspiracy thriller ‘Utopia’

‘Arby kills people and even carries out a school massacre, but by the end of the first series he is a very sympathetic character. It was amazing that the actor who played him, Neil Maskell, managed to pull that off.’

From Morning to Midnight
© Johan Persson

The sexually explosive Clerk in ‘From Morning to Midnight’ at the National

‘In the entire first scene you don’t really notice the Clerk, who works in a provincial bank, until a glamorous Italian woman happens to touch his hand. He then goes completely crazy, nicks all the money and runs off to find an experience worth paying for. The ending is darker than anything I’ve ever written.’

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas
© Manuel Harlan

Corrupt sell-out Gorge in Royal Court hit ‘The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas’

‘Gorge is a total dick who becomes a brutal person. Up to a point, he chooses the moral path, until someone offers him the world and he decides, “Yeah, fuck it.” I wondered whether he should get away with it, but I was brought up a Catholic, so I can’t resist punishing characters who have done bad things.’

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