Druid Theatre to stage new Tom Murphy work

Rehearsals for two Murphy plays begin in Galway

Lorna Siggins

Western Correspondent

When Colm Conneely( 9), Lily McBride (11) and Ailbhe Birkett (12) sat down to read a script at a long table in Galway’s Druid Lane yesterday (mon), they may have had some small sense of some history in the making.

"Extraordinary" was how Druid's artistic director Garry Hynes described the moment, turning to writer Tom Murphy, as she recalled how it was almost 30 years since they had premiered his masterful play Bailegangaire in the same location. Then, the principal actress was Siobhán McKenna, as Mommo, while Mary McEvoy and Marie Mullen made up the warring trinity, as her two grand-daughters, Mary and Dolly.


After its first staging in Galway in 1985, Hynes took the play to London the following spring, with former arts minister Ted Nealon turning up at Dublin airport to wish the cast well and pour tea for the cameras. Bailegangaire was McKenna's final stage appearance, as she died in November 1986.

Since then, Hynes has directed some of Murphy's finest work, and two years ago she staged a trilogy – A Whistle in the Dark, Famine and Conversations on a

Homecoming – which received critical acclaim for her ability to mirror contemporary issues in historical contexts.

Assuming Mommo's mantle, Marie Mullen is playing the lead role in both a revived Bailegangaire and in Brigit, Murphy's prequel to his 1985 allegory.The three children at yesterday's first rehearsals of Brigit are playing Mommo's grandchildren in it.

“We had been talking about this for some time, and now that it is happening it is very exciting,”Hynes said yesterday. “While each play is quite distinct, and one doesn’t have to see both together, it made sense to produce both back to back,” she explained, adding that “there is no sense that the discussions at issue are not as urgent today as they were back then.”

"It's an evolution . . . it was originally a 45-minute script for television," Murphy said of Brigit's origins.

Serendipitously, it is set three decades before Bailegangaire and relates how a place named Bochtán became known as a town without laughter.

Mullen as Mommo is joined by Bosco Hogan, playing an odd-job man who has been commissioned by the church to carve a statue, Marty Rea as a priest, Jane Brennan as a reverend mother and Rachel O'Byrne as a young nun. Aisling O'Sullivan and Catherine Walsh play Dolly and Mary in Bailegangaire.

Brigit and Bailegangaire will open on September 14th in Galway's Town Hall Theatre and will run until September 21st. Both plays will then tour to Clifden Arts Festival (September 23rd to 24th) and to the Olympia Theatre for the Dublin Theatre Festival (October 1st-5th).

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times