Town Hall Theatre, Galway Jul 23-25 8pm €25/€22 Complete cycle Jul 26/28 1.30pm €60/€50 091-566577 galwayartsfestival.com
“Actions have roots, I can explain,” says a character in A Whistle in the Dark, a play so heaving with events it never allows him to. It’s tempting, then, to look at Druid Theatre’s extraordinary project, which stages three of Tom Murphy’s most eviscerating dramas in one cycle, as an effort to trace the roots of our national narrative.
DruidMurphy begins with romantics and cynics squaring off in a pub in Conversations on a Homecoming. It turns back the clock to Whistle’s ruinous Irish turf wars in 1960s Coventry, before concluding with Murphy’s epic-theatre treatment of the blight in Famine. You could call it a forensic study of emigration, but that wouldn’t capture the passion of Murphy’s sinuous writing or how riveting the experience becomes under Gary Hynes’s direction.
DruidMurphy’s capacity to grip and hold an audience owes much to the continuity of a stunning ensemble, where reappearing actors Marty Rea, Aaron Monaghan, Eileen Walsh (pictured with Niall Buggy in A Whistle in the Dark), Garett Lombard and Rory Nolan effect chameleon-like shifts between their characters while allowing Murphy’s concerns to echo from play to play. (Frances O’Connor’s design, a balance of realistic details and stark abstractions, also facilitates the production’s intellectual scope.)
Cumulatively, it may not be easy going, but it is an emotionally purging experience. For all the weight of Druid’s achievement, you come out feeling lighter.
Can’t see that? Catch this:The Great Goat Bubble Druid Theatre, Galway