Des’s six sisters inspire dark comedy of terrors

SHINE A LIGHT: A scene from the darkly comic "Six Black Candles", which author Des Dillon has admitted is based on the characters of his sisters - who all burst out laughing when they saw the play.
SHINE A LIGHT: A scene from the darkly comic "Six Black Candles", which author Des Dillon has admitted is based on the characters of his sisters - who all burst out laughing when they saw the play.

CUMBERNAULD Theatre will this week host Des Dillon’s darkly comic play Six Black Candles.

It might sound odd, but the story of a group of six sisters in Coatbridge who practice black magic in order to get revenge on an unfaithful husband is firmly based on reality.

In fact Des (50), who grew up in Coatbridge (though he also lived in Abronhill for three years), says he didn’t have to look very far at all for his inspiration.

“I have six sisters and they are the characters in the play,” he said. “Catholicism is such a big thing in Coatbridge but if you scratch beneath that you find this big ball of superstition.

“My sisters used to try and cast spells for anything from trying to get a boyfriend to killing someone with a curse, which is done through the spell of six black candles where the victim’s name is written on a piece of paper and then the paper is burned.”

What’s more, Des says this is a case where fact is stranger than fiction. “I wrote a straight version of events but it was just too fantastical, so I had to tone it down a bit for the play,” he said.

But do his sisters take umbrage about being so depicted? “Not at all. For each of them I based the character on the best and worst aspects of their personality, so they are each light and dark.

“They used to sit around and read the book to each other, they loved the craic. They also all came to see the play and easily recognised the performances as highly caricaturised versions of themselves and just burst out laughing. The rest of the audience probably thought ‘who are these six madwomen’?.”

Six Black Candles has also seen great success in Eastern Europe, which Des attributes to those peoples having a great deal in common with Scotland.

“The book was a number one bestseller in Moscow, and soon afterwards I got a bizarre half-Russian half-English email requesting the rights to do a translated version in the Ukraine. I went over there to see the play and while I couldn’t understand much of the language, people were laughing at the exact same moments as they do in Scotland. From what I’ve seen over there Moscow is just one big Glasgow, we have a similar sense of humour.”

Des also said that he wrote Six Black Candles purely with the intention of providing an evening’s entertainment. “This is just me putting the craic into writing. If I wanted to change the world I would have become a politician, not a writer. I actually think it’s pretty arrogant to think writing can change the world. This play is like a night at the cinema, it’s about putting bums on seats, people watching it and going for a drink and a kebab before going back to their lives. A fun night out in exchange for a tenner.”

Six Black Candles can be seen at Cumbernauld Theatre this Thursday and Friday. Both performances start at 7.45pm and tickets, £10/£8, can be booked on 01236 732887.