In praise of Tom Murphy


The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards is the annual celebration of the best in our theatrical landscape, so it speaks volumes that last Sunday’s ceremony became in effect a celebration of the work of Tom Murphy.

An astounding five of the 13 awards received, and many more of the nominations, were for work on productions of Murphy plays.

As Druid’s Garry Hynes put it, “We bow before you; the night is yours, Tom Murphy”, and the crowd gave the playwright a standing ovation. His status as our most important living playwright alongside Brian Friel was again confirmed.

The DruidMurphy cycle of Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine – “a dark inner history of modern Ireland”, as Fintan O’Toole described it – has generated extraordinary acclaim during its tour of Ireland, Britain and the US.

Next week, Murphy’s career is celebrated in an evening of discussion and readings in his native Tuam, followed by a four-night run of his early play A Crucial Week in the Life of a Grocer’s Assistant; and DruidMurphy will begin another tour in April.

All of this confirms that the themes he so expertly mines – the weight of history, the tragedy of emigration, the poisonous threat of pride and violence – are as relevant, and poignant, as ever.

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