An interview with Gavin Kostick
Interview by: Caomhan Keane
A new and very special, off-site production: The End of the Road is an 80 minute show which starts at Project Arts Centre and takes you around Fishamble Street and its environs to tell the life story of Bill, who is currently a patient at St Francis Hospice, Raheny.
A real Dublin life story is brought to you through the glimpses, tangents, and dramatic turning points of a life fully lived over the past seven decades in the city. Playwright Gavin Kostick talks to Caomhan Keane
What form does The End of The Road take?
You are brought in a small group around the Fishamble Street area where there will be a number of plays, events and art installations that tell the story of one persons life. The life is Bill Gormans, and it is based on a series of interviews I did with him in St Francis Hospice in Raheney.
What made you want to turn it into a piece of theatre?
Well the truth is partially his willingness to engage. If you are in a hospice you might not be able to talk about your life, you might have a lot of other things you want to be doing. Also we were looking at getting away from the idea in drama that a life has to be extraordinary or different or unusual or anything like that. If you think about your own life some of it is quite special but some of it is repetitive. So we wanted to make drama out of the everyday aspects of someone’s life.
Was it always going to be a site-specific piece?
No. Site specific is where you go to somewhere like a hospital and you let the building speak to you. Bill's life is a line that has gone from central Dublin, out through Glasnevin, Ballymun and then Swords where he worked. So we talked about doing a bus tour, but that has been done. So we settled on Fishamble Street. Not because that's where his traces are but because it is a bendy sort of road in the same shape as the geographical journey of Bills life, with traces that resonate. So we are hoping to get a resonance between the location and the drama that isn't literal
What was involved in getting it on its feet?
We did a series of interviews with Bill maybe two years ago. Then we had to find the best way of staging it. In Bill's real life he worked in the botanic gardens for a while and he created the signs that go with the plants. So we thought that maybe the whole show should be set in the Botanic Gardens. So you end up going down all these different roads in search of the right resonance for the work. It took us a while to find the right partner, The Temple Bar Cultural Trust, who we trusted to help us get this play on as well.
How did Louise Lowe get involved with the project?
She did a fantastic piece called World’s End Lane last year. So it just felt right to work with someone who is really interested in working with real life histories as a starting point. Who can make real life issues come to life, using the city. People who you think can make really top quality work yet at the same time you think you can get on with them.
What research did they have to do?
The result of the interviews was three hours worth of transcript. So Louise and myself worked out the lifeline, the life story, looking at childbirth in Dublin, life expectancy, and the economic and social details like local politics.
Some turning points, such as when you are getting married you know that they are going to be a turning point because you are standing there and going 'Jesus, I'm getting married'. But some turning points are unexpected. You make a tiny decision and everything turns out differently. So we looked for those turning points and circumstances.
What are the challenges of a site-specific piece and how do you deal with them?
Essentially it’s no more complicated than doing a pub-crawl. A pub-crawl with drama. So you have to be aware that people can only work for a certain amount of time. They need a rest. They need the toilet. We are not trying to make something uncomfortable, we are trying to make something that you go along with and get a glimpse of a complete life lived out on a street in Dublin. The joy of this is that something can be far away, it can be close, you can work with people walking past you, with overheard music. So you can mess around with scale and sound and vision.
Do you have to think about this when casting?
You have to find the actor who can ad lib, who can chat to the audience. Some actors don't like that. They just want the role, they want the part, and they want their text written out. Whereas some actors are a bit more open to the idea, who can cope when the unexpected happens.
What do you like about site-specific pieces?
There is a question there. Are you trying to create something for artistic reasons because it challenges the form of theatre or are you creating something for which ordinary theatre is not sufficient? And I'm not sure if ‘taking a life and show it on stage' is what we are really trying to do. We are trying to go forward and backwards in time, provide glimpses, repetition, and change. So we are doing it in order to tell a life story in a way that couldn't really be shown on a stage.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 21st July 2011 | Theatre
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