Interview with the playwright of The Ash Fire, Gavin Kostick

We sat down with playwright and dramaturgy tutor at The Lir Academy, Gavin Kostick to discuss his play The Ash Fire

So Gavin, what got you into theatre?

I studied English Literature in TCD, 1984 - 1988 and I got involved in publications. We were the first generation to have access to a Mac and a Laser printer you could book for an hour at a time. I noticed that DU Players - the College Drama Society - had these programmes that they either had difficulty making or were using fairly old fashioned methods. So I started making programmes for them with the layouts you could get from a Mac. I did that for about a year. Then I basically really started to like being around that scene. Jim Culleton was the chair for a year around that time. It was more of a social thing, and then I started to write.

Why did you become a playwright?

My standard joke is because I couldn't do anything else, which probably has some truth in it. You know, I'm not really sure I have a good answer to that one. What happened is that I saw a very early Pigsback (which later became Fishamble) show and whilst I thought all involved were really interesting I hated the play. I was sufficiently distant from theatre codes of behaviour to just say it straight out. I told Jim I hated it and if I could write a better play than that (which I reckoned couldn't be that hard) would Pigsback produce it? Jim said no but they would give it a reading and see how that went. So I wrote 'The Ash Fire' and Jim and the company did indeed give it a reading, DTF 1992 I think.

What inspired you to write The Ash Fire?

Well, it is the story of my Irish Jewish grandparents really on my father's side. My parents had really left us to discover our own beliefs and values so neither my mother or father were too heavy on heritage. So I sort of knew the stories but not in any detail. The first draft was written in about two weeks. By day I would ask my dad about things and in the evening I would go to my mother's office, she was an accountant, where I could use an early Amstrad I think and write it up. It was idyllic. I also thought that Ireland needed to think about the immigrant to Ireland experience- not just Jewish - and the challenges people faced, which was before the era of mass immigration into this country.

What did your family think of the play?

Good question. I think Mum and Dad were just pleased. The play went to London and Glasgow, so they could go to the theatre and see that it really was on and that other people were actually buying tickets and going to see it. It was a night out and their son had written the play, you know. Dad is great but can be pretty cagey, so he didn't say much, but probably did that so as to let me find my own way - he was letting me get on with it. There was another relative, who has sadly since died who I was worried about. Afterwards he said a really interesting thing. He said, "if you tell the truth nobody can be upset."

And most importantly….what does Mrs. Butterdish think of the play?

Mrs Butterdish: Mr Gavin has passed me on your question. I find it best not to read any of Mr Gavin's work as it might put a strain on our relationship. It is sufficient to manage the cooking needs of the house: we generally find ourselves in agreement on those matters. Anything else is a risk. I can say that he humms cheerfully when he talks of it and has pressurised the family to attend so I think he must be pleased.

(you'll need to follow Gavin's facebook posts to understand this one!)