DruidMurphy, Town Hall Theatre, Galway – 3 June 2012

I knew very little about Tom Murphy before I started my MA in Drama and Theatre Studies last September. It seems embarrassing to say it now but I’m not sure I’d even heard of him. I must have come across him at some stage but I could just be saying that because his work seems so familiar to me now.

Tom Murphy was the first playwright we studied in Irish Playwrights since the 60s. Famine was the play I read and reported back on but we also talked about his other plays, particularly the ones that were produced by Druid. Then at the end of November, Druid announced their DruidMurphy cycle and suddenly Tom Murphy was everywhere!

In the second term we did a series of Masterclasses with Druid artists, some of whom were working on DruidMurphy. We did a directing masterclass with Garry Hynes using Tom Murphy’s first play On The Outside. We also had a class with the set and costume designer Francis O’Connor where he talked about choosing the set for DruidMurphy. He also talked about The Gigli Concert and had photos from that set and many others. It was an interesting and informative class and it was great that we had it in Druid Theatre where so many of the plays were staged.

At the end of March, two of my classmates started their internships with Druid, working on the DruidMurphy cycle. We barely saw them over the next few months – they were kept very busy, but they were there on the Sunday morning in June when I headed down to the Town Hall Theatre to see the first full-day DruidMurphy cycle. It felt a little bit strange to be arriving at the theatre when it was still light outside. Inside the foyer was filled with people looking forward to the day of plays, looking over the schedule, wondering how we’d cope with the long day, how we would feel 10 hours later.

Luckily the Town Hall Theatre seats are comfortable and relatively roomy. When we were booking my friend and I spent some time choosing our seats from the limited selection available. For a full day of plays, it was important that we got the seat selection right! We got a couple of seats at the back – it’s a small enough theatre that even at the back, you still have a good view.

The connecting theme between the three plays is emigration. The first, Conversations on a Homecoming is about the returning emigrant. Whistle in the Dark is more about the emigrant’s experience aboard though it is also about violence, family ties and masculinity. Famine is about how the waves of emigration out of Ireland began. Emigration is a relevant issue in Ireland today but it’s hard not to feel like we’re looking at these plays from a great distance. because it does say something about Ireland today. It was a bit backward looking though. It would have been nice to see a modern play there beside the older, reflective plays. Something that took into account the changes that the country has undergone over the last 20 years. But that wasn’t the aim of the cycle. It captured the results and causes of emigration for those who have gone before, it reminded us of our history.

Conversations on a Homecoming was my favourite of the three plays. This one at least had a few laughs in it. It was still not a particularly happy play but there were some moments when happiness seemed possible. The performances were also wonderful. Aaron Monaghan was excellent as estate agent Liam, while Marie Mullan was almost unrecognisable as the pub landlady. It can be a bit disorientating to return to the theatre after a short break and find a new set on stage and the same actors playing brand new characters. It’s hard not to connect what has gone before and the relationships between characters that were built up over the last hour and put all that on top of what you are seeing on stage. It is a very impressive feat for the actors and I have a huge admiration for them straddling these three plays. I think it’s a huge achievement for Druid and all the cast and crew involved. It’s an ambitious project and a feat they can be very proud of.

Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to see all three plays in one day. Each play stands up so well on it’s own that I’m not sure how seeing in the cycle really adds to the experience. (Apart from awe and admiration at the acting abilities of the performers.) If you would like to see the full DruidMurphy cycle, it’s at the Dublin Theatre Festival in October.

In Praise of Galway

I’ve been working with Fishamble Theatre Company in Dublin for the last few weeks and while I’m enjoying the work and I love being back in Dublin, I spent a lot of time this week missing Galway. I felt like I was missing all the fun with the Volvo Ocean Race and Friday’s Silent Disco on Dominic’s Street. I’ve also been hearing stories of the endless lashing rain but it really hasn’t seemed to “dampened” the party spirit in Galway.

A few of my friends were performing on the Spoken Word stage in Volvo’s Global Village this week and a few more will be performing in the first ever Galway Fringe festival, which starts on 12 July. I definitely have to make a trip to Galway for that. I’m also looking forward to the Galway Arts Festival. It starts on July 16 and has loads of great shows including new Irish writing, all male Shakespeare and the famous Macnas parade which is free, and on July 22. And once the Arts Festival finishes, it’s time for the Galway Races. I’ve never been to the races but I’ve been told by many people that it is a very fun time. July is a busy time in Galway!

The Snug in Tigh Neachtain
The Snug in Tigh Neachtain
I had a great time studying in Galway this year and I really enjoyed getting to know the town. The people are friendly and there’s always a great atmosphere. If you’re tempted to visit yourself, I recommend staying close to the centre of town. Traffic is crazy and it can take a long time to get anywhere by car. It also rains a lot! I know people say it’s always raining in Ireland, but it really does rain more in Galway than the rest of the country.

That’s not a reason not to go but it is a reason to stay somewhere close to the centre of town because otherwise you’ll just spend your time trekking through the rain instead of sitting in a snug pub or a nice dry theatre.

Barnacles hostel
Barnacles hostel
Barnacles on Quay Street is perfect because it’s close to everything. There are at least three great pubs within spitting distance; it’s also very close to Shop Street where there are lots of great cafes. You have the famous McDonagh’s Fish & Chip Shop at the end of the road, though I’d also recommend The Kettle of Fish just round the corner on Cross Street – I haven’t tried their deep fried Mars bars yet, but the chips are excellent! It’s close to the Spanish Arch (and Nimmo’s restaurant – I’ve never been in but it always smells delicious – and the Galway Museum which has a great tea shop. It’s also just round the corner from Druid Theatre, where you can see The Great Goat Bubble, produced by Fishamble, from Thursday 12 July until Sunday 29!

And if you are lucky enough to get a dry, sunny day in Galway (it does happen sometimes!), it’s less than half an hours walk to Salthill prom. If you do go west, give my love to Galway and tell her I’ll be back soon!

10 Days of Dublin 2012

10 Days in Dublin, 5 - 14 July
10 Days in Dublin, 5 – 14 July

10 days in Dublin started yesterday. There will be over 200 performance happening all over the city between now and July 14, including theatre, comedy, music, film and visual art. All or almost all tickets are under €20, there are loads of shows for €5 or €6 and a few free events as well. Have a look at the programmme online or pick one up from their box office on Wellington Quay, just between the Clarence Hotel and The Workman’s Club.

And a special mention to Just Us Four, partly because I have a friend in the cast and partly because after reading Stella Duffy’s brilliant, angry and inspiring blog last week, it feels important to support theatre that puts women on the stage and tells women’s stories. They does both – female playwright and two female cast members tell a story about female friendship.

There are lots of female-led pieces across the 10 Days in Dublin programme, I’m sure something else will. There’s lots of great work being made by men as well! Go out and see something! At the very least, it will get you out of the rain.