Mayflies: Tony Curran (Tully) and Martin Compston (Jimmy)

Mayflies – Cast and creatives speak ahead of new BBC Drama

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Airing between Christmas and New Year, Mayflies stars Martin Compston and Tony Curran as best friends. 

One of the anticipated highlights of the upcoming festive season for us is Mayflies, adapted from Andrew O’Hagan’s acclaimed novel

The two-part drama promises a tale of enduring friendship which is tested in the most devastating way.

Mayflies: Matt Littleson (Limbo) Rian Gordon (young Jimmy) Tom Glynn Carney (young Tully) Paul Gorman (Hogg) and Mitchell Robertson (Tibbs)

Here’s the synopsis for Mayflies:

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…

Ahead of its launch, the cast and crew have been speaking about the drama.

Novelist Andrew O’Hagan, who also executive produces, describes 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.”

He also suggests what he hopes the audience might take away from watching:

“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.”

Meanwhile, screenwriter Andrea Gibb talks about adapting the novel of Mayflies:

“I read the book before it had been published and before it went out to the public and fell in love with it immediately. It’s been amazing, and perhaps a little daunting, to see how well it’s been received and how it’s been lauded as a profound and tender work. It’s both of those things but it’s also very funny and never sombre, even when it’s exploring the reality of our mortality. This is a book about life and death and everything in between. It’s a huge responsibility to adapt something so humane and I really hope I’ve done it justice.”

Mayflies: Tracy Ifeachor (Iona), Ashley Jensen (Anna), Tony Curran (Tully) and Martin Compston (Jimmy)

Star Martin Compston, who plays Jimmy, talks about his character’s relationship with Tully (Tony Curran):

“They’re incredibly close. What’s so amazing is that sometimes young people in film are portrayed as being involved in gangs and violence, but this group are obsessed with films, music, culture. They feel like an arty bunch, boys with broad minds, and I can relate to that as I grew up with films and music at the centre of my world. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Tully, I thought of Tony as soon as I read it. At one point, Jimmy calls Tully the life force and that is Tony. He’s the energizer bunny, great fun to be around, absolutely full of beans. He’s perfect casting.”

Mayflies - Martin Compston as Jimmy

He also attempts to sum the show up in three words, calling it “nostalgic, emotional and hopeful.”

Playing Tully, Tony Curran gives his first impressions of the script:

“When I first read Andrea’s scripts I was very excited to be part of this story. The characters felt very relatable to me as it begins in the 80s, a time when I was a teenager growing up in Scotland. I feel Andrea has captured Andrew O’Hagan’s novel beautifully, the poetic raucous rebel nature of these young men growing up and then as times passes the powerful and moving outcome of their great friendship.”

Mayflies - Tony Curran as Tully

He also talks about reuniting with Martin Compston:

“I was so happy when I found out Martin was going to be playing Jimmy. We both worked together many years ago on a film called ‘Red Road’ and we both had a good experience on that. As Tully and Jimmy mainly drive our story and they are extremely close friends, they’ve known each other since they were kids, almost like brothers. It was important that we had to feel that kinship between them, a history, kind of bromance if you will. It’s always a joy working with Martin, he’s always so present and giving as an actor and of course he’s also a mad Celtic fan like myself.”

There’s plenty more on the BBC press release, including contributions from Ashley Jensen (Shetland) and Tracy Ifeachor (Showtrial).

Mayflies is a Synchronicity Films production for the BBC, co-commissioned with BBC Scotland, in association with All3Media International with support from Screen Scotland. Filming took place around Glasgow and Ayrshire.

The show airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm on 28th and 29th December 2022.