Feeling Good About Hackney Blues

Originally published in Hackney Today (here) and on Hackney Council Website (here).

Having his play about legendary blues musician Robert Johnson performed at the Hackney Empire is his biggest career achievement to date for playwright and Dalston resident Dave Hall.

It was originally performed as a two-hander while he was studying philosophy at Cambridge University, then taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it garnered critical acclaim.

Dave Hall

Now Belfast-born Dave – who writes under his full name David Walter Hall, to avoid confusion with an actor of the same name – has rewritten it to include 20 singers, six musicians and two actors. It is due to be performed at the Hackney Empire on 16 July.

Dave, 26, says: “It’s my interpretation of the myth that surrounds Robert Johnson, who is sometimes referred to as the king of the Delta blues. People say that he sold his soul to the devil to become the great guitarist he was. He has influenced people like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton.

At university, I saw some student plays and wondered if anyone had written about him. So I Googled his name and saw no one had. Then one night, a dark night, appropriately, a voice came into my head about how this character of the devil would sound – how he would use rhyme and tricks. I sat down and started writing, and six months later had a finished script.”

He is now working on a script called Mysterioso about jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, due to be performed at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith in October.

Dave is excited about Cross Roads Blues – which he is also directing and producing – being performed in Hackney.

“I’ve had plays performed at King’s Head in Islington, and for several years in a row at Edinburgh. But being at the Hackney Empire is the biggest thing to date. It seems that everything I do is bigger than the last so it’s moving in the right direction.”

So how does Hackney compare to his home city?

“It’s much better here. There is stuff happening here. It’s interesting and people are interesting.

“I like the Vortex jazz club and I recently discovered Cafe OTO – it’s a very alternative music place. Italian Vogue recently said how cool Dalston is and Cafe OTO was mentioned. I love the Rio cinema – you don’t get independent cinemas like it in the West End. The food’s great – I’m a real foodie. I love all the Turkish places .

The best kebabs in the world are in Hackney.”

Curriculum Vitae

  • 1983 Born in Belfast
  • 1994-2001 School at Methodist College, Belfast
  • 2002-5 Studied philosophy at Cambridge University
  • 2003 First student production of Cross Road Blues at ADC Theatre, Cambridge
  • 2004 Second play The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady performed at Corpus Christi Playroom, Cambridge
  • 2005 Cross Roads Blues is a hit at Edinburgh Festival
  • 2009 Cross Roads Blues comes to Hackney Empire