'Distinctive and powerful record' of Garry Hynes' work recognised
Theatre director Garry Hynes managed "to foretell in an instinctual way, that our society was in deep denial and on the verge of change", said Fiach Mac Conghail. She also had created a visceral link between playwright, actor, audience - and therefore Irish society.
Announcing the Special Tribute Award, the Abbey director told guests Garry Hynes had achieved "a distinctive and powerful record of work over the last 30 years that has allowed many more theatre artists to succeed and develop without leaving their hinterland".
In all her work she had managed to convey an outlook, "which in her best work shakes any complacency, or comfort we might have in the 'goings on' of our world".
"Before there was any talk of spatial strategies, decentralisation or those policy directives on 'access', Garry Hynes delivered all of that by co-founding the first professional theatre company outside Dublin - Druid Theatre Company," he said.
"It became apparent early on that the monopoly of the Dublin theatre was irretrievably broken down and that this was to the benefit of theatre artists, writers and audiences. That is her greatest legacy."
She introduced such important theatre artists as Marie Mullen, Mick Lally, Seán McGinley, Ray McBride and all who had worked at Druid. Her partnership with one of Ireland's great writers, Tom Murphy, was also a legacy.
The body of work resulting "created a new energy in Irish theatre, which reminded us of the necessity for the writer to be at the heart of any theatre company", he said.
He recalled "the energy, risk and commitment that burst from the stage", during her time as artistic director at the Abbey, adding "you can't bottle that".
He also recalled the many awards she had received, including doctorates from NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, the NCEA; becoming the first woman to win a Best Director Tony award, for The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 1998; a Director of the Year award; a Time Out award in London; a People of the Year award.
Accepting the award, Ms Hynes spoke warmly of the announcement that Mr Mac Conghail is to be director of the Abbey Theatre. She said she was "at one with everyone in this room in welcoming his appointment" and wished him "the greatest possible success".
She continued: "I was born lucky. Lucky surely in my family and friends, but particularly lucky that I have been allowed to be part of the magical process of theatre. Magical because in bringing together a group of people, writers, actors, and all those who support them, and audiences, it offers us, occasionally, briefly, momentarily, an opportunity to transcend ourselves."
She noted, in reference to the death of Arthur Miller, that over the weekend "a great voice of world theatre fell silent". He wrote "of man in relation to other men, of the impossibility of life outside the context of others". His words would continue "to be spoken down the generations".