Sat 18th – Sat 25th August 2012


Dewei Jia

at 01:40 on 19th Aug 2012



'DruidMurphy' serves as a rare opportunity to explore Irish playwright – Tom Murphy. His trilogy story about emigrating Irish men spans the timeline from 1849’s potato fail ('Famine'), 1960’s emigration life (“A Whistle in the Dark') to 1970’s back home story (“Conversations on a Homecoming”), and tells of the hope and fear of the Irish soul. Led by director Garry Hynes, this new touring production by Druid Theatre Company will bring the painful Irish past to stages around Ireland, England and America.

As that of a spiritual forebearer of a generation of Irish writers, Tom Murphy’s insight into the haunted Irish present is both historical and futuristic. Hynes, a world-renowned director who has also worked closely with him for more than 25 years, must be the ideal person to bring these back to the centre of theatrical world. The bleak story line ends the trilogy with the darkest 'Famine', intending to remind the audience of the long-lasting aftershock of the famine.

'Conversations on a Homecoming' presents a lyrical realism with its setting in a Galway local pub. Nothing big actually happened. There is little conflict on the stage. Michael’s (Matry Rea) sudden return was welcomed with a mixed warmness and a bitter hate for having gone. Garrett Lombard (Tom) and Aaron Monaghan (Liam) hilariously conveyed this mixed feeling beautifully yet acerbic, while Rea interacted with sufficient emotional ambiguity. Eileen Walsh’s wife Peggy, in contrast, showed constant fearfulness and anxiety, which is not to be understood until the next episode.

In 'A Whistle in the Dark', the opening scene of Peggy’s quarrelling with her husband explains her situation in the family: abused by her husband, and psychologically tortured by her visiting brothers-in-law in her own Coventry house. Michael’s father, who claimed having given a “proper upbringing” to his kids, is responsible for the duel between one of his sons – Des (Gavin Drea) and Michael, and the consequent death of Des. The production accuses poverty and poor family forms as the killer. Its sympathy also extends to the whole nation: “Irish men shouldn’t get married”.

What brings this accusation to its bleakest summit is to identify the 'Famine' as the reason for a raised Irish unconsciousness of self-destruction. It charts the impact of the tragedy: suffering and mass migration. Brian Doherty as a village farmer and leader monumentally exemplifies the bitter hero. The conflict is, once again, overwhelmingly fierce, and may be better with some beauty of subtly. At the end, I have to emerge after nine hours with utter astonishment, and even couldn’t help wondering whether its pace and violence had been too threatening.

I am sure more people will be astounded by this production. What’s also interesting is how the troupe travels – from New York to England, and back home in Ireland. Is that also an analogy to the trilogy itself? Is it claiming that the fault lines of the traumatized Irish memory can be felt everywhere in the world?


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