Sell-out for Druid 'greatest hits' birthday celebrations

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IT TAKES a special kind of theatre director to whip 15 celebrated national and international actors together to raise a few bob on a 35th birthday.

However, Garry Hynes of Druid Theatre is no ordinary artistic director. It was as much a credit to her as to her company that Corkman Cillian Murphy, lately of Perrier’s Bountyand Inception, took to the stage along with colleagues including Marie Mullen and Eamon Morrissey for three sell-out performances over the weekend.

The stellar cast that constitutes the Druid “family” had only rehearsed for three days beforehand, in two parallel venues.

The aim of the exercise was to recreate “moments” from a selection of the company’s most memorable productions, while also raising funds for an educational outreach initiative and a new writing programme.

As a result, there were no complimentary tickets for From Galway to Broadway and Back Again, even for Hynes herself – and yet such was the demand that a matinee was added on Saturday.

Druid co-founder Marie Mullen performed alongside her husband Seán McGinley, while Aaron Monaghan, Catherine Walsh, Clare Dunne and Denis Conway joined Murphy and Morrissey in excerpts from 15 productions, ranging from J M Synge’s T he Playboy of the Western Worldto John B Keane’s Sive.

Also participating were Derbhle Crotty, Garrett Lombard, Jane Brennan, Raymond Scannell, Rebecca Bartlett and Tadhg Murphy, while the anthology’s co-director, Mikel Murfi, played one of the gleeful mummers in the excerpt from Vincent Woods’s At the Black Pig’s Dyke, originally directed by Maeliosa Stafford.

Playwright Enda Walsh, whose award-winning The Walworth Farcetravelled the world with Druid, read a short excerpt from his new play, Penelope, inspired by Odysseus’s spouse in Homer’s Odyssey. It will have its premiere at this year’s Galway Arts Festival before touring Ireland and overseas.

Audience choice, selected by public plebiscite, was an extract from Tom Murphy’s Conversations on a Homecoming, which was premiered by Druid. It was followed by a snapshot from Murphy’s Bailegangaire, which came a close second in the vote.

Master of ceremonies was Druid general manager Tim Smith, who noted that the company’s founding year of 1975 was a special time for him also – being his own birthdate.

Introducing the fourth excerpt, from Louis D’Alton’s Lovers’ Meeting, Smith also noted wryly that it was produced in 1989, the year that Hynes said she was leaving Druid “never to return” . . . a “woman of her word!”.

Druid is preparing for a production of Seán O’Casey’s The Silver Tassiethis autumn – the anti-war play was turned down by the Abbey Theatre in 1928.

The company is developing a series of workshops for young people in association with the Oxford Playhouse for this, and will be visiting schools in Galway city and county. Smith noted that one of the main challenges for the young fresh-faced Galway university graduates who formed Druid in 1975 was to play characters that were much older than them.

Now it was the other way around, he said – to much laughter from a fiercely loyal Druid audience of “a certain age”.

Druid’s own theatre was the venue yesterday for another special event when actress Sarah-Jane Drummey married north American writer Eliam Kraiem. Both met on the set of Druid’s production of The Empress of Indiain 2006.

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