Saintfield man pens comedy dealing with life in lockdown during pandemic

Saintfield man pens comedy dealing with life in lockdown during pandemic

22 April 2020

A COMEDY play written by a multi award-winning film director from Saintfield has been published by a top London stage company. 

Gavin Irvine’s debut play, Down The Plug Hole, has been described by Josef Weinberger Plays as “absolutely hilarious”. 

Gavin, who is more used to scooping prestigious awards for his screen plays and directing talents, turned to writing his first play while he was confined at home as there coronavirus lockdown began.

He says the play, with its contemporary back, depicts the vulnerability of society amid coronavirus.

“The play is a metaphor for how it is for us all at the moment and poses the fundamental questions about life and where humanity may be headed,” says Gavin, who is now based in London.

Josef Weinberger Plays — more synonymous for their connection with renowned playwrights such as Arthur Miller, John Steinbeck and Eugene O’Neill — put an open-ended call out to inspire dramatists everywhere to write a short play dealing with these days of quarantine and social distancing. 

Gavin says to have his first play published feels rather special. “If you’d told me that I’d be a playwright a month ago I wouldn’t have believed you.

“Down the Plughole is an absurd comedy about the catastrophic destruction of mankind, but set in a bathtub.

“It deals with the uncertainty of our fate as a species as we contend with fatal diseases, an ageing society and the persistent threat of nuclear war from North Korea hanging over us – punctuated throughout by acts of God.”

Inspiration for the play came from a fate-filled moment when he was relaxing in a warm bath one evening as the lockdown began. 

He said: “I live in Camden. I noticed within the first several days that I was able to breath more easily in the mornings and I was coughing much less. I am not a smoker.

“The incessant pace of traffic in the street has slowed to a hush and my window sills inside my house are much cleaner. Before the lockdown, I could have drawn a line across the sills with my finger and it would have left a white mark in the soot which would gather. 

“Having the time that lockdown has inadvertently provided, I decided I would respond to a call-out to have-a-go playwrights to write something about their experience of self isolation.”

Gavin describes the scene as he pulled out the plug to let the water away. “It suddenly came to me as I watched the water drain away that it was an analogy for humanity, that we too are in great danger of being sucked down the plug hole to oblivion.

So I got ready and immediately wrote the whole play sitting on the edge of my bed. It took me 40 minutes and I spent the next three weeks reworking it until I was happy.”

Central to the play is Jake, a man in his late 60s, who is in self-isolation and being cared for by his put-upon daughter, Martha. 

Gavin explains: “While she’s out getting groceries, he ponders upon the plight of the human race as it is metaphorically sucked down the plughole to oblivion.

“Throughout the play, Jake is visited by several characters — a City shark who represents the financial markets, a Navy diver who see that humanity is in terrible trouble, the Prime Minister and God, who commands a less-than-enthusiastic Jake to build an ark and save mankind.”

Gavin says Jake becomes overwhelmed thinking that it’s too big of a job to build an ark. He’s not sure if he has got the energy.

“The play also includes two young mothers debating a brutal and radical way to build a new plug from the flesh and bone of every misfit in society, two floating dim-witted teenagers and a dancing bath plug bearing a last minute solution to the problem,” said Gavin. 

“At the end of the play, Jake’s lottery numbers come up and his winning ticket appears in the beak of a dove — the Christian symbol for peace.”

Down the Plughole, which reads as a tragicomedy, shines a spotlight on modern society and its impending doom if love and kindness fail to prevail. 

Gavin says he has taken inspiration from two comic plays, One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean and Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol, and the classic novel by William Golding, Lord of the Flies.

Gavin added: “Jake realises that in the end money is worthless and that love and good health, which are in short supply in the play, are all that is important. 

Amelia Madan, head of amateur plays at Josef Weinberger Plays, said: “Down the Plughole is a hilarious, ludicrous and bold play for these crazy unchartered times.

“We are delighted Gavin chose to put some of the uncertainty about out fate as a species we all feel, into words, with a generous dash of delicious absurdism and a fabulous ending.”