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Dennis Kelly
BornBarnet, London, England
OccupationPlaywright, television writer, television producer, screenwriter, film producer
EducationFinchley Catholic High School
Alma materGoldsmiths College, University of London
Notable worksDebris (2003)
Osama the Hero (2005)
Love and Money (2006)
DNA (2008)
Orphans (2009)
Matilda the Musical (2010)
Utopia (2013)

Dennis Kelly is a British writer and producer. He has worked for theatre, television and film.

His play DNA, first performed in 2007, became a core set-text for GCSE in 2010[1] and has been studied by approximately 400,000 students each year.[2] He wrote the book for Matilda the Musical, which featured music and lyrics from musician and comedian Tim Minchin. The musical went on to win multiple awards,[3] with Kelly receiving a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.[4] A film adaptation of the musical with screenplay by Kelly was released in December 2022.

For television, he is known for co-creating and co-writing the BBC Three sitcom Pulling, the Channel 4 conspiracy thriller Utopia, and the HBO and Sky Atlantic thriller The Third Day. Kelly also wrote the screenplay for the 2014 film Black Sea.[5]

Personal life

Kelly grew up on a council estate in Barnet, North London.[6] A child of an Irish family, he was one of five children and was raised as a Catholic.[7] He attended Finchley Catholic High School.[8][9] Leaving school at 16 years of age, Kelly went to work in a market and then at Sainsbury's.[10]

While working in supermarkets, he discovered theatre when he joined a local youth group, the Barnet Drama Centre.[7]

Kelly says that he struggled with alcoholism during much of his 20s.[10] He attended Alcoholics Anonymous and has been sober since 2001.[11]

At the age of 30, he graduated from Goldsmiths College, University of London with First Class Honours in Drama and Theatre Arts.

In September 2011 Kelly married Neapolitan actress Monica Nappo. They had met five years earlier when Nappo was appearing in an Italian premiere of one of Kelly's plays.[6] They separated in 2016 and divorced in 2017. In May 2022 he married Producer Katie Swinden, the couple have one daughter together.

At one point Kelly shared his home in Deptford with Vladimir Shcherban from the Belarus Free Theatre company. Kelly offered his home to Shcherban as a place to stay when Shcherban was facing homelessness. Shcherban's situation came as a result of him having to flee (with other members of the theatre company) from Belarus to London as a means to escape political censorship and persecution in the aftermath of the 2010 Belarusian presidential election, where oppositional candidates had been arrested.[12]


Kelly has credited Sharon Horgan for making him become a writer. They had both initially met in the early 1990s at LOST youth theatre where they performed in a production of Anton Chekov's The Seagull. They again met each other some years later while both drunk in a Camden pub. In the pub Kelly explained to Horgan that he had written a play.[13] The next day Horgan phoned Kelly up and told him that they should both put the play on. Kelly has said that "I honestly think, had I not bumped into her, I wouldn’t have become a writer, because I don’t think I’d have had the drive. Sharon always had a lot of drive and was quite fearless."[14] The play that Kelly wrote was called Brendan's Visit, which was performed at the Etcetera Theatre and Canal Cafe Theatre, with Horgan playing one of the characters.[15] Kelly has disowned the play saying that "I’ve killed everyone who ever saw it, let’s never talk about that ever again. […] I don’t think I can remember what it was about but I’m definitely not going to say what it was about! It was just a sitcom with swearing which is like a lot people’s first plays."[11]

Kelly's first professionally produced play Debris was written when he was 30 years old.[16] He says he wrote it imagining he'd give himself a part. Staged at Theatre503 in 2003, it transferred the next year to Battersea Arts Centre. It was well received and he went on to write the controversially titled Osama the Hero which was produced by Hampstead Theatre, beginning a long-running relationship with the theatre.[citation needed]

He wrote After the End in 2005. It was produced by Paines Plough in his first out of London production at the Traverse, though it later came to the Bush Theatre before going on a tour of the UK and internationally in 2006.[citation needed]

Love and Money was staged at the Royal Exchange, Manchester and then at the Young Vic in 2006. That same year his sitcom Pulling,[17] co-written and starring Sharon Horgan, aired on BBC Three. It received good ratings for the channel and was well reviewed, being nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Situation Comedy in 2007.[citation needed]

Returning to theatre and the Hampstead Theatre in 2007, his fake verbatim play Taking Care of Baby was another success for both writer and theatre.[citation needed]

For the 2007 National Theatre Connections Festival, he wrote DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (better known by the title DNA) which after the connections received a professional production alongside The Miracle by Lin Coghlan and Baby Girl by Roy Williams at the National Theatre in the Cottesloe.[18] The play is now used widely in schools and is on several curriculums for GCSE drama.[citation needed]

The second series of Pulling ran in 2008 and won a British Comedy Award. However, the show was not renewed for a third series, although in 2009 an hour-long special closed the series. That same year he also wrote an episode for Series 8 of Spooks.[citation needed]

In 2009, his play Orphans was staged at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre before transferring to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[citation needed]


Kelly was one of the ten writers who took part in writing monologues based on a children's account for a one-off event at the Old Vic Theatre directed by Danny Boyle in London in support of Dramatic Need in 2010. His three monologues were performed by Ben Kingsley, Jenny Jules and Charlie Cox.[19]

In 2010, Kelly returned to the Hampstead Theatre once more for his response to Shakespeare's King Lear, The Gods Weep starring Jeremy Irons, with mixed reviews.[citation needed] His script adapted from Roald Dahl's book for Tim Minchin's production of the musical Matilda[20] proved highly successful, with the musical winning 99 awards between its opening in December 2010[21] and 2021, and scheduled to continue to run in the West End of London until at least December 2022.[22]

He wrote an adaptation of Pinocchio featuring the songs and score from the Walt Disney film for the National Theatre, opening in December 2017.[citation needed]

Kelly's one-woman play Girls & Boys had its world premiere at the Royal Court Theatre in February 2018, directed by Lyndsey Turner and starring Carey Mulligan.[23][24] This production also had a run at the off-Broadway New York theatre, Minetta Lane Theatre in June 2018, to good reviews.[25][26][27] In March 2022, State Theatre Company South Australia put on a performance of the play at the Odeon Theatre, Norwood in Adelaide as part of the Adelaide Festival. The performance was directed by the artistic director of STCSA, Mitchell Butel, and starred Justine Clarke.[20][28] This production received overwhelmingly positive reviews, receiving five stars from reviewers[29][30][31] and earning a standing ovation at least one performance.[32] In the Netherlands, the play was staged by Theater Oostpool, directed by Daria Bukvić and starring Hadewych Minis, who won the prestigious Theo d'Or prize for her solo performance.[33]

International success and other work

His work has been produced in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Australia, Japan, the United States, France, Belgium, Denmark, Romania and Canada.[citation needed]

Other work includes translations of Péter Kárpáti's Fourth Gate (National Theatre Studio) and The Colony, a radio play which won Best European Radio Drama at the Prix Europa, 2004.[citation needed]






Abandoned, cancelled or unproduced




Awards and honours


Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref
2023 British Academy Film Awards Outstanding British Film Matilda the Musical (film) Nominated [55]
2022 British Academy Television Awards Best Single Drama Together Won [56]
2015 BAFTA TV Craft Awards Writer – Drama Utopia Nominated [57]
2014 RTS Programme Awards Drama Series Nominated [58]
Writer – Drama Nominated
BAFTA TV Craft Awards Writer – Drama Nominated [59]
International Emmy Awards Best Drama Series Won [60]
2013 Tony Awards Best Book of A Musical Matilda the Musical Won [4]
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Won [61]
Outstanding New Broadway Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Musical Won [62]
Outstanding Book of a Musical Won
2012 South Bank Sky Arts Awards Theatre prize Won [63]
Olivier Awards Best Musical Won [64]
2011 Evening Standard Awards The Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical Won [65]
Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best Musical Won [66]
TMA UK Theatre Awards Best Musical Won [67]
WhatsOnStage Awards The SEE TICKETS Best New Musical Award Won [68]
2009 The Scotsman Fringe First Award Orphans Won [69]
The Herald (Glasgow) Herald Angel Award Won [70]
British Comedy Award Best Television Comedy Drama Pulling Won [71]
Theater heute Best Foreign Playwright Taking Care of Baby Won
The South Bank Show Awards Comedy Award Pulling Won [72]
2007 TMA Awards Best New Play Taking Care of Baby Nominated
John Whiting Award Won
Laurence Olivier Awards Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre Love and Money Nominated
BAFTA TV Award Best Situation Comedy Pulling Nominated [73]
2006 Meyer-Whitworth Award Osama the Hero Won [74]
2004 Radio & Music Award Scripting for Broadcast The Colony Won
Prix Europa Best European Radio Drama Of The Year Won [75]


On 9 November 2015, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts awarded both Kelly and Matilda co-collaborator Tim Minchin an Honorary Doctorate in letters, validated by the University of East Anglia, for their work on Matilda the Musical.[76][77]

In July 2017 Kelly received an 'Honorary Fellowship' from Goldsmiths, University of London.[78]


  1. ^ Archived webpage from 2016 of Dennis Kelly's page on his agent's website
  2. ^ Sierz, Aleks (25 November 2013). Introduction. Dennis Kelly: Plays Two: Our Teacher's a Troll; Orphans; Taking Care of Baby; DNA; The Gods Weep. By Kelly, Dennis. London: Oberon Books Ltd. ISBN 9781783195114.
  3. ^ Awards section on the Matilda The Musical website
  4. ^ a b "Tony award winners 2013 – the full list". The Guardian. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b Kelly, Stephen (22 November 2014). "Director Kevin Macdonald and writer Dennis Kelly on going back to basics for gripping submarine thriller Black Sea". The Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Dennis Kelly: I can't imagine a more violent writer than Shakespeare". Evening Standard. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b Sierz, Aleks (27 July 2005). "In pursuit of monsters". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  8. ^ Alumni page on the Finchley Catholic High School website
  9. ^ Caven, James (21 December 2015). "Finchley school appeals for photographs and memories as preparations get under way for 90th anniversary". Barnet Borough Times. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  10. ^ a b Costa, Maddy (10 September 2013). "Dennis Kelly: 'I thought that drinking was all I had to offer'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d DENNIS KELLY: 20% HOT, 100% ALIVE on the Writerly blog
  12. ^ Shcherban, Vladimir (20 September 2014). "Too much British theatre is defined by finance and funding". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  13. ^ Horgan, Sharon (March 2015). "Sharon Horgan talks to Dennis Kelly". Chain Reaction. Series 10. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  14. ^ Saner, Emine (4 October 2019). "Sharon Horgan's unstoppable rise as master of honest comedy". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  15. ^ Sharon Horgan's Acting CV
  16. ^ a b Kelly, Dennis (28 February 2008). "Identity crisis". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Pulling", BBC
  18. ^ "DNA", National Theatre, 2008, archived from the original on 8 June 2009
  19. ^ "Dramatic Need", Children's Monologues, November 2010, archived from the original on 31 August 2012
  20. ^ a b "Girls & Boys". Adelaide Festival. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  21. ^ "The Matilda the Musical story". Tim Minchin. 6 November 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  22. ^ "Matilda The Musical". Theatre News and Reviews. 20 September 2021. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  23. ^ Gardner, Lyn (22 February 2018). "Dennis Kelly on Girls and Boys: 'I was shocked Carey Mulligan did it'". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  24. ^ Billington, Michael (15 February 2018). "Girls and Boys review – gut-wrenching Carey Mulligan charts a marriage's end". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  25. ^ Brantley, Ben (28 June 2018). "Review: Carey Mulligan Tells a Harrowing Tale of 'Girls & Boys'". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  26. ^ Scheck, Frank (27 June 2018). "'Girls & Boys': Theater Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  27. ^ Schama, Chloe (27 June 2018). "Theater Can Be Dishearteningly Inaccessible. Carey Mulligan's Devastating New Play Is Changing That". Vogue magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  28. ^ "Girls & Boys". State Theatre Company South Australia. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  29. ^ Tune, Cathy (2 March 2022). "Girls & Boys: When Families Fall Apart ~ Adelaide Festival 2022 Review". The Clothesline - Digital Arts Magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  30. ^ Forester, Gordon (2 March 2022). "Girls & Boys (State Theatre Company South Australia, Adelaide Festival) ★★★★★". Limelight. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  31. ^ Evans, Steve (1 March 2022). "Adelaide Festival review: Girls & Boys". InDaily. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  32. ^ Lanzi, Lisa (March 2022). "Girls and Boys". Stage Whispers. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  33. ^ "Winnaars VSCD Toneelprijzen 2021 & 2022 bekend". (in Dutch). 11 September 2022. Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  34. ^ "The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas at The Royal Court Theatre". The Royal Court Theatre. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  35. ^ " - the playwrights database of modern plays". Archived from the original on 6 July 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  36. ^ "BBC - The Wire - The Colony - Writers Room".
  37. ^ Audio and transcript of part one of 'Nation Theatre Connections Playwrights Roundtable' on the TheatreVOICE website
  38. ^ 'Autumn/Winter Season 16' Mountview brochure
  39. ^ a b Cohen, Danny; Holmwood, Leigh (2 October 2008). "BBC3 axes Pulling after two series". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  40. ^ Raphael, Amy (16 May 2009). "There's no moral centre to Pulling because we don't have one!". The Guardian. London.
  41. ^ "C4 Utopia". Twitter. 9 October 2014.
  42. ^ "Exclusive: C4's Utopia won't return for series 3". Den of Geek. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  43. ^ Rentoul, John (18 January 2015). "The best prematurely cancelled TV shows from Deadwood to Ripper Street". The Independent. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  44. ^ "My So-Called Life to Utopia: are these the most foolish TV cancellations ever?". The Guardian. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  45. ^ Bartleet, Larry (16 June 2015). "10 TV shows cancelled before their time that Netflix should resurrect". NME. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  46. ^ Butler, Mark (13 November 2017). "Why Utopia deserves a Netflix revival". inews. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  47. ^ Mellor, Louisa (17 September 2020). "UK Utopia Creator Dennis Kelly: 'There's Always a Possibility of Going Back'". Den of Geek. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  48. ^ "Amazon Studios to Adapt Consider Phlebas, First Novel of the Culture Series, for Television". Business Wire. 21 February 2018.
  49. ^ Vincent, James (26 August 2020). "Amazon cancels TV adaptation of Iain M. Banks' sci-fi Culture series". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 21 May 2024.
  50. ^ Siegel, Tatiana; Kit, Borys (30 October 2015). "'World War Z' Sequel Moves Forward After 'Jurassic World 2' Drama (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  51. ^ McNary, Dave (30 October 2015). "Brad Pitt's 'World War Z' Sequel Draws Dennis Kelly for New Draft". Variety. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  52. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (6 February 2019). "Paramount Pulls The Plug On David Fincher's 'World War Z' Sequel". The Playlist. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  53. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (18 May 2019). "Zombie Films at Cannes: What's Up With All the Undead?". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 20 May 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  54. ^ 2023 EE BAFTA Film Awards: The Winners Webpage on the BAFTAs website
  55. ^ BAFTA Television 2022: The Winners webpage on the BAFTAs website
  56. ^ Television Craft | Writer - Drama in 2015 webpage on the BAFTAs website
  57. ^ RTS PROGRAMME AWARDS 2014 on the Royal Television Society website
  58. ^ Television Craft | Writer - Drama in 2014 webpage on the BAFTAs website
  59. ^ "International Emmys: UK's 'Utopia' Wins Best Drama; Belgium's 'What If' Takes Comedy (FULL LIST)". Variety. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  60. ^ "2012-13 Outer Critics Circle Award Winners Announced - PIPPIN Tops List with 7, Followed by KINKY BOOTS". 13 May 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  61. ^ "Nominations Announced for 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards". Playbill. 29 April 2013. Archived from the original on 1 May 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  62. ^ "Matilda wins at South Bank awards". BBC News. 1 May 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  63. ^ "Olivier Award Winners Announced - Matilda Dominates!". London Theatre. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  64. ^ Jury, Louise; Foster, Alistair (10 April 2012). "Sheridan Smith crowned queen of London stage at our Theatre Awards". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  65. ^ "The Critics' Circle Theatre Awards 2011". The Critics' Circle. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  66. ^ "THEATRE AWARDS UK 2011". THEATRE AWARDS UK. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  67. ^ "Full List: 2012 Award winners". WhatsOnStage. 19 February 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  68. ^ Wiegand, Chris (14 August 2009). "Traverse scores a hat-trick in Edinburgh's Fringe First awards". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  69. ^ "Angels fly off with awards". The Herald. 15 August 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  70. ^ 2009 Winners on the British Comedy Awards website
  71. ^ "Pulling scoops South Bank Award". Chortle. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  72. ^ 2007 Television Award for Situation Comedy on the BAFTAs website
  73. ^ Meyer Whitworth Award winners on the Playwright's Studio Scotland website
  75. ^ MountviewLDN (13 November 2015). "Writer Dennis Kelly's Hilarious Graduation Advice". Archived from the original on 13 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  76. ^ Snow, Georgia (11 November 2015). "Matilda writers Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly awarded honorary degrees from Mountview". The Stage. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017.
  77. ^ Goldsmiths honours Hope Powell CBE, Dennis Kelly, Gabriel Prokofiev, and Dorothy Cross on the Goldsmiths website