First Encounters: Elaine Murphy and Gavin McCaffrey
Elaine Murphy and Gavin McCaffrey in conversation with Frances O’Rourke
Elaine Murphy and Gavin McCaffrey Photograph: Eric Luke
ELAINE MURPHY is an actor and playwright whose first play, ‘Little Gem’ has won awards in Ireland and abroad. Her second play, ‘Shush’, opened recently at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. She and her husband Gavin McCaffrey live in Artane, Dublin, with their son, Elliott
Gavin was cast as my boyfriend in Pure Mule [an RTÉ TV drama series set in Offaly]. I was a Dubliner down for the weekend in Offaly, trying to mend a broken heart. That was in the first episode; we got back together in episode six. I knew Gavin’s name, but we’d never met, even though we grew up near each other in Artane.
I was about 22/23 when I came to acting, hadn’t done any before; I worked for a phone company for a number of years and in a bank before that, in admin roles. I wanted to do something creative, so at night I started an acting course in the Gaiety. I got involved in various acting projects and for 10 years also worked part-time in a women’s health centre – I only left two years ago.
I was up and down a lot from Dublin for Pure Mule, was only in a few episodes. We had a good old laugh. There were a few parties down there. Gavin is quite quiet but I had really good chats with him. I thought he was sweet, a really nice guy and good to be around, so we used to hang out a lot. We left as friends – Gav was in a relationship then.
I was surprised later when he asked me out on a date and even more surprised when he stood me up. In fairness, he had a good excuse – he got a free U2 ticket. We got married in 2011, moved back to Artane. We have a little boy, Elliott, who’s one-and-a-half, and another baby due in August.
The success of Little Gem was a bit of a surprise: it started small in the Civic Theatre in Tallaght and just grew. I did feel pressure over Shush. This is just my second play: I feel like I’m still starting off, finding my feet as a writer.
Initially, it wasn’t hard, both me and Gavin working in the arts. We’re really supportive of each other, but once you have a baby you start feeling guilty about money, feel pressured.
I’m very lucky: I got a place on an Irish Theatre Institute scheme that provides space in town to work in. I wouldn’t have got a tap done with a baby at home.
None of my family were ever in the arts. They get a bit worried before they see a show – oh God, what’s she said about us? I’d given my mother Little Gem to read so she would know what it was when she was going in. She passed away a year-and-a-half ago.
I always remember talking to mam about Gavin, that he was such a lovely kind person. My mother said, “doesn’t it make you feel good to have someone like that in your life?”
I’m lucky to have him.
GAVIN McCAFFREY is an actor and now a singer-songwriter and wedding singer. He lives in Dublin with his wife Elaine Murphy and their son