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Peter Marks reviews Enda Walsh’s ‘Penelope’ at Studio Theatre
By Peter Marks, Thursday, March 17, 8:08 PM
So it all comes down to this, does it? Wasted years spent wallowing in an empty swimming pool, grilling sausages on a broken barbecue while waiting on a woman who has no plans ever to accede to our nonstop romantic serenades. And — oh, right — at the end of the vigil, the prospect of a gruesome death at the hands of her long-absent husband.
Hey, that’s life! Or that’s what Enda Walsh makes of it, anyway, in his snarling, mesmerizing howl of a black comedy, “Penelope,” which is smoldering nightly in a bonfire of verbs and adjectives at Studio Theatre. The production, which has come to the capital courtesy of the Druid Theatre of Galway, Ireland, is a 90-minute wrangle with some captivating metaphors, a match of verbal wit that compels you to wonder anew at what we’ve all been put here to accomplish.
Don’t be deceived by the seeming stasis of “Penelope,” which has been directed with apt dashes of panache by Mikel Murfi. It’s ostensibly four untoned guys of varying ages killing time in bathrobes and Speedos. But much else is percolating on this turbulent evening, ideas grotesque and radiant, unsettling and reassuring. “We’re the talking dead,” murmurs one of this doomed quartet, as he and the others ever more desperately turn to the question of the meaning of their lives, on the certain precipice of extinction.
For the next month and a half, the Dublin-born Walsh will be Topic A at Studio, which is presenting “Penelope” and two of his other works of recent vintage, “The New Electric Ballroom” and “The Walworth Farce,” under the heading “New Ireland: The Enda Walsh Festival.” (The two other plays, both directed by Matt Torney, are Studio productions.) The “new” in this case should stand for freshness, for Walsh — author also of “Disco Pigs” and “Bedbound” — is emblematic of an exhilarating portfolio of playwriting being exported these days from Ireland.
The inspiration for “Penelope” comes from the ancillary sequence in Homer’s “Odyssey” concerning the suitors, those presumptuous interlopers who, taking advantage of Odysseus’s decades-long separation from wife Penelope, park themselves at her doorstep, hoping to win her hand. As in Tom Stoppard’s philosophical riff on “Hamlet,” “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” Walsh promotes marginal figures out of a writer’s imagination to leading parts in their own story. As, too, with the Stoppard play, these characters come to the tragic realization that they can’t escape their fate, that they must endure with the knowledge that their role in the cosmos, like ours, is ultimately inconsequential.
The playwright invites us to eavesdrop in the waning hours of the suitors who have outlasted all the competition, four men ranging in age from about their late 20s to their 60s: Fitz (Niall Buggy), the oldest; Burns (Aaron Monaghan), the youngest; Dunne (Denis Conway), the vainest; and Quinn (Karl Shiels), the angriest. The drained pool under Penelope’s balcony becomes a grim man cave in which they serve out their enforced leisure, an ordeal interrupted by summonses to a microphone at which they attempt to woo silky, sphinxlike Penelope (Olga Wehrly) with words.
The aggressive affinities of men — for the hunt, for the throne, for the win for winning’s sake — all emerge in the pathetic power games in the tiled pool, rendered cleverly by set designer Sabine Dargent. She’s also responsible for the costumes — or, in some instances, the skimpiness thereof: These lumpy specimens are supposed to be advertising their assets for the object of their desire. The minimal coverage, of course, does them no favors. It puts the accent on the swimsuited suitors’ unsuitability.
The poignancy of the piece resides in the conflicting beliefs that some of the men cling to. They’re aware their odds are ludicrously long, and yet, they stubbornly resist conceding defeat. In other words, they still believe in love.
In its initial minutes, the play advances these ideas with an airless solemnity that reminds you of the more somber moments of Samuel Beckett. Soon, however, the men, spurred by a shared vision of Odysseus’s bloody revenge on them, spring to some concerted action, and the play gains in urgency. Pounding his tanned oiled chest, strutting and spitting insults at his rivals, Shiels’s Quinn is the most primitive of the suitors, and his hormone-fueled tirades push the other men to more nuanced responses to this day of reckoning.
The sublime Buggy, playing the meekest of the four, delivers the play’s most lyrical address, a whispered valentine to Penelope that starts as a fumbling monologue and results in an eloquent declaration of his sense of worthlessness. The speech is far more seductive than any of the sycophantic or self-serving encomiums directed her way. Conway, meanwhile, has fun with one of just those types of arias, a soliloquy that reveals nothing except Dunne’s clueless narcissism.
Shiels, with the sardonic assistance of Monaghan’s resentfully servile Burns, is accorded the night’s most surreal bit of stage business. It’s a garish and at times shocking expression of Quinn’s own stormy state of agitation, a series of pantomimes of violent and passionate endings from history and fiction.
Small wonder his reenactments depend so heavily on the surefire dramatic possibilities of death scenes. “Penelope” is obsessed with them, with how we might behave and what we might reflect on as the clock runs out. Walsh’s dexterity lets us laugh at and evaluate and savor the predicaments of these men, even as we’re chilled to the bone.
by Enda Walsh. Directed by Mike Murfi. Set and costumes, Sabine Dargent; lighting, Paul Keogan; sound, Gregory Clarke. About 90 minutes. Through April 3 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Visit www.studiotheatre.org or call 202-332-3300.
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In Far Over Their Heads: Life at the Pool’s Bottom
By BEN BRANTLEY
There they fester on the floor of that empty swimming pool, four men in Speedos, past their prime. Once they were legion, but they have dwindled to these lucky (or unlucky) few, and their days pass in a blur of sun-bleached sameness. Yet after 20 years, they remain gripped by the same fever of anticipation. They are waiting — hold for it — for Odysseus.
“Penelope,” the extravagantly imaginative play by Enda Walsh that opened on Tuesday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, is like a dream you might have after too much neat whiskey at a tacky marina bar in the company of bookish Irish sots. This word-drunk production — from the Druid Theater Company of Galway, Ireland — dares to suggest what it might have been like had Samuel Beckett, instead of James Joyce, decided to reinvent Homer’s “Odyssey.”
Make that a Samuel Beckett who understood the desperate-swinger vibes that a recording of Herb Alpert’s “Spanish Flea” would automatically set off. And who knew that a villa on the Aegean Sea could be as bleak a cosmic landscape as the blasted countryside of “Waiting for Godot.”
The crises of middle-class men realizing they won’t live forever have become all too familiar in theater, film and television, never mind novels. (Paging Mssrs. Bellow, Updike and Roth.) But Mr. Walsh’s rich and strange contribution to the field is in its own subversive class.
The author of “The Walworth Farce” and “The New Electric Ballroom” (both seen at St. Ann’s Warehouse), Mr. Walsh here takes the myths of modern manhood — and their classic roots — and twists them until they disintegrate. True, even at only 90 minutes, this deliciously acted play, directed by Mikel Murfi, can seem long in the telling. And despite periodic explosions of theatrical inventiveness, its luxuriant verbal overgrowth can reach the point of suffocation.
But how many plays these days offer as much to think about as this one does? And by that I don’t mean big, topical subjects, but more elusive, philosophical ones about our attraction to our own annihilation and the nature and limits of language.
Those subjects — annihilation and language — are connected, by the way. Mr. Walsh has an intense, love-hate relationship with words. He is aware, as one of the characters puts it, of “the debris that conversation” leaves behind. And the gorgeous, outlandish sentences and speeches he weaves seem to self-destruct even as they are spoken.
Talking is about all the quartet of fractious, sun-baked men in “Penelope” have to do anymore. And here’s where a little knowledge of Homer might come in handy. These guys are the last of the legions of suitors who swarmed the house of Penelope after her husband, Odysseus, left for the Trojan War, and they have been sitting at the bottom of her pool, waiting for her to choose among them. As recently as yesterday (or was it the day before?) there were five of them, but then a fellow named Murray offed himself, having been talked into a suicidal state by the bully of the group.
The survivors, a spectrum of masculine types, are assembled in the drained, tiled swimming pool that time forgot (designed with merciless sleaziness by Sabine Dargent, who did the equally unforgiving costumes). Quinn (Karl Shiels) is the slick-haired alpha bully, given to body-beautiful poses that only enhance our awareness that his 40ish physique has run to seed. He treats the weedy, younger Burns (Tadhg Murphy) as his personal manservant, but you sense a rebellion in the offing.
Then there’s the rotund gourmand Dunne (Denis Conway), looking like someone you might spot in a Ramada lounge during convention week. Fitz (Niall Buggy) is the oldest member of the group, and its most literary, toting a big tome that happens to be the collected works of Homer.
These men have homes, and presumably careers, of their own. But the only activity they seem to pursue is waiting. This state of inanition is splendidly summoned in the play’s opening, silent moments, in which Burns stares forlornly at a blood-stained wall (remember Murray?) and Quinn, frozen in a Charles Atlas stance, ponders something that is definitely not cooking on a cold barbecue grill. That bit of foodstuff is — wouldn’t you know? — a sausage, the last sausage in the house, later described tauntingly by Quinn as “the sausage of our youth.”
Even Quinn, you see, has a touch of the poet. He and his three rivals have been flexing their linguistic muscles for years. After all, they need to be limber-tongued to pitch woo to Penelope (the beautiful, silent Olga Wehrly), who emerges at regular intervals to hear their proposals anew.
In between her appearances, the lads joke, scrap, compare mothers and body tone and self-consciously weigh the weight of what they say. They debate the merits of collaboration versus internal warfare, but their behavior reminds us of the savage boys from “Lord of the Flies.” As for their language, it brings to mind that of “Godot,” but overfertilized and run amok: idle, ritualistic conversation grown big and wild, like jungle foliage.
How they use that language acquires a new urgency on the day that “Penelope” takes place. The men have all had the same ominous dream the night before (it involves that barbecue grill), and they know what that means. Odysseus is coming home, and they are, in a phrase, dead meat. Unless they can finally talk Penelope into marrying one of them.
Their subsequent suitors’ speeches assume different forms, each singularly appropriate to the man delivering it. The actors, all terrific throughout, show their true mettle here. The obvious crowd pleaser is Quinn’s climactic presentation of courtship through the ages, which allows him to become both halves of famous historical lovers (Napoleon and Josephine, Romeo and Juliet, Jack and Jackie).
But the soliloquy that most surprises, and the one that most stays with me, belongs to Mr. Buggy’s Fitz. Addressing Penelope through a microphone, Fitz begins falteringly, but then he finds his groove. In a whispery voice that always seems about to evaporate, Fitz imagines himself into nothingness, into a world beyond words.
Of course, it’s his words that take us into this wordless place. That’s the paradox that Mr. Walsh has been chewing on, savoring, digesting and spitting out all through this fascinating, dizzying play.
By Enda Walsh; directed by Mikel Murfi; sets and costumes by Sabine Dargent; lighting by Paul Keogan; sound by Gregory Clarke; production manager, Eamonn Fox; company stage manager, Lee Davis. A Druid production, Garry Hynes, artistic director; presented by St. Ann’s Warehouse, Susan Feldman, artistic director. At St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street, Dumbo,Brooklyn; (718) 254-8779, stannswarehouse.org.Through Nov. 14. Running time: 1 hour 30 min-utes. WITH: Denis Conway (Dunne), Karl Shiels(Quinn), Niall Buggy (Fitz), Olga Wehrly (Penelope) and Tadhg Murphy (Burns).
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DENIS CONWAY (Dunne)
Druid: Penelope (Galway, Irish Tour, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Helsinki Stage Festival, St. Ann’s Warehouse, New York), From Galway to Broadway & Back Again, The Gigli Concert (Galway and Irish tour), The Walworth Farce (National Theatre, London; New York, 2008; Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2007; Galway, Cork, Dublin 2006), The Playboy of the Western World (Perth, Australia tour 2005).
Other theatre includes: Christ Deliver Us, The Recruiting Officer, Homeland, A Cry from Heaven, The Dandy Dolls, Riders To The Sea, The Wild Duck, Freedom of the City, The Colleen Bawn, April Bright, The Crucible, The Comedy of Errors (Abbey & Peacock Theatres); Wallenstein (Chichester Festival Theatre); The Death of Harry Leon, Making History (tour to commemorate the 400th anniversary of The Flight Of The Earls), Myrmidons, Amadeus, Macbeth, Tales from Ovid, Richard III, Mutabilitie, Troilus and Cressida (Ouroboros Theatre Co.); Diarmuid and Gráinne, Studs, Native City, Buddleia (Passion Machine); Volpone, Castle Rackrent, Miss Julie, The Overcoat, Lear (Meridian); Conversations on a Homecoming, Una Pooka and One for the Road (Feedback).
Film & Television: Zonad (dirs John and Ciarán Kearney); Garage (dir Lenny Abrahamson); Tiger’s Tail (dir John Boorman); The Wind that Shakes the Barley (dir Ken Loach); Boy Eats Girl (dir Stephen Bradley); Alexander (dir Oliver Stone); Yesterday’s Children (Marcus Cole); Intermission (dir John Crowley); The Borstal Boy (dir Peter Sheridan); The Countess Cathleen (dir. Paula Bergin); I Went Down (dir Paddy Breathnach); Michael Collins (dir Neil Jordan); Making Ends Meet (dir Declan Recks); Single Handed, Hide and Seek, Showbands 1 and 2, The Clinic, Bachelors Walk, On Home Ground, Fair City (RTÉ); Rebel Heart, Casualty, Custer’s Last Stand Up, Ballykissangel (BBC); Yesterday’s Children (CBS); Running Mate, Trí Scéal, Boghaisíní (TG4).
Awards: Denis was awarded the Best Actor award at The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards (2009) for his role as The Irishman in the Druid production of The Gigli Concert by Tom Murphy. In 2001 he also won the Best Actor award for his role as Richard in Ouroboros Theatre Company’s production of Richard III. In 2008, he was nominated in the category of Best Actor for his role as Vincent in Running Mate in the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA). Denis is Artistic Director of Ouroboros Theatre Company.
AARON MONAGHAN (Burns)
Druid: The Silver Tassie (Irish & UK tour), From Galway to Broadway & Back Again, The Playboy of the Western World (UK & Irish tour 2009, Tokyo 2007, Perth, Australia tour 2005), The Cripple of Inishmaan (Irish & UK Tour, Atlantic Theater Company, New York, Irish Times Theatre Award Nomination Best Actor), Empress of India, The Year of the Hiker, The Walworth Farce, DruidSynge (Galway, Dublin, Edinburgh International Festival and Inis Meáin, 2005; Minneapolis and Lincoln Center Festival New York 2006). Other theatre includes: Arrah na Pogue, Christ Deliver Us!, Romeo & Juliet, Drama at Inish, The Shaughraun (Irish Times Theatre Award Nomination, Best Supporting Actor), She Stoops to Conquer (Irish Times Theatre Award Nomination Best Supporting Actor), The Burial at Thebes, I Do Not Like Thee, Dr. Fell, The Wolf of Winter, Finders Keepers (Abbey Theatre); Roberto Zucco (Bedrock), Alone It Stands (Irish, UK and Malaysian tours); The Tinkers Curse, The Ballad of Pat McNab (Livin’ Dred); Handel's Crossing (fishamble); Pubu (Articulate Anatomy); Hades (UpState Theatre).
Film & Television: Love/Hate; Single-Handed; The Other Side Of Sleep; Little Foxes (Samson Films); The Tudors (CBC); Ella Enchanted (Miramax Films); LSD:73 (Campbell Ryan); Deep Breaths (Stockyard Pictures);The Last Furlong (Great Western/RTÉ); Hide and Seek (RTÉ); Speed Dating (2000AD films) and The Final Furlong.
Awards: In 2009, Aaron won an OBIE Award, a Lucille Lortel Award and a Manchester Evening News Best Actor Award for his performance as Cripple Billy in the Druid and Atlantic Theater Company production of The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh. Best Supporting Actor Irish Times Theatre Award nominations for The Shaughraun and She Stoops to Conquer.
Aaron trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College Dublin, and at the British American Drama Academy, Oxford. He is a founding member of Livin’ Dred Theatre Company.
KARL SHIELS (Quinn)
Druid: Penelope (Galway, Irish Tour, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Helsinki Stage Festival, St. Ann’s Warehouse, New York).
Other theatre includes: Macbeth, Terminus, The Comedy of Errors, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Romeo and Juliet, Beauty in a Broken Place, Henry IV Part I, Barbaric Comedies, At Swim-Two-Birds, Twenty Grand (Abbey Theatre); The Death of Harry Leon (Ouroboros Theatre); Hue and Cry (Bewleys Café, Oran Mor, Glasgow); The Pride of Parnell Street (Fishamble/International tour); Howie the Rookie (International tour); Oedipus Loves You (International tour); Sleeping Beauty (Helix); The Shadow of a Gunman (Lyric Theatre, Belfast); Duck (Royal Court); Salomé (Gate Theatre, Dublin); Greek, Quartet, Muller’s Medea, Obituary, Early Morning, This Lime Tree Bower, The Massacre @ Paris, Fully Recovered, The Spanish Tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi (Project Arts Centre); Hamlet, Venus and Adonis (Samuel Beckett Centre); Comedians (Dublin Theatre Festival).
As a Director: Karl is Artistic Director of Semper Fi (Ireland) where he directed Adrenalin, God’s Grace, Ladies and Gents, Ten, Slaughter, Breakfast with Versace, Within 24 Hours, Another 24 Hours, Within 24 Hours of Dance, Conversation with a Cupboard Man, Butterflies, Black Bessie. He has also directed The Dark Room (Gentle Giant); Topdog/Underdog, Three Tall Women (Tall Tales); Drapes, Eggshell, Bernard Opens Up (Fishamble); Gargarin Way (Island); The Pitchfork Disney, Fallen (Raw Image).
OLGA WEHRLY (Penelope)
Druid: Penelope (Galway, Irish Tour, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Helsinki Stage Festival, St. Ann’s Warehouse, New York).
Other theatre: Helter Skelter, Red Light Winter (Purple Heart Theatre Company); All of Human Life is Here (Volta Productions - Dublin Fringe Festival 2009), Macbeth, Othello (Second Age); Whereabouts - Drapes, Blind Spot (Fishamble); Wuthering Heights (City Theatre Dublin); Sexual Perversity in Chicago (Icarus Theatre).
Film and Television: Blood Coloured Moon (Cleverality Pictures), The Crush (Purdy Pictures), Rásaí na Gaillimhe/The Galway Races (TG4), The Clinic, Raw, This is Nightlive (RTÉ), Ape (Channel 4), Nuts (Media Factory), One Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Productions), The Alarms (Caboom), Speed Dating (System 48), Foireann Codladh/TEAM SLEEP (Newgrange Pictures), Life Drawing (Cutstone Films), Uri’s Haunted Venice (BSkyB).
Olga recently starred in the Oscar nominated short film The Crush.
Mikel trained at Ecole Jacques Lecoq, Paris and is from Sligo.
Sabine is a French designer living in Ireland.
Odysseus and The Suitors: Homer vs. Walsh
When Theatre Oberhausen in Germany commissioned Enda Walsh to write a play based on The Odyssey, he was drawn not to stories of shipwreck and seduction, but to the impotence and self-absorption of the men on shore. “I’m fascinated by them,” says Walsh. “You have Odysseus on his adventures, and here are these middle-aged men who had yet to make anything of themselves, just wrecking Penelope’s house. The image of a swimming pool came to me very quickly, of men staring at their deaths in Speedos.”
Homer’s poem follows Odysseus’s journey towards the suitors and his exquisitely patient wife. The suitors in Penelope wait for Odysseus to reach them.
The suitors, those arrogant men, who were enjoying themselves
playing checkers right outside the door, sitting down
on hides of cattle they themselves had butchered.
—Homer, The Odyssey, translation Ian Johnston
QUINN: This is the very last sausage, men, and I wanted you all to know that it’s a superior sausage. The sausage of our youth.
—Enda Walsh, Penelope
In the shadowy halls
the suitors started to create an uproar,
each man shouting out his hope to lie beside her.
DUNNE: I have given my life to a possibility of love with you!.... but you have turned me into this… this notion of a man who BEGS! I am worthy of this house, of this prize but you have reduced me, Penelope… to a fat man in SPEEDOS!
Just as this eagle came here
from mountains where it and its young were born
and snatched up this goose bred in the household,
that's how Odysseus, after all his suffering
and his many wanderings, will come home
and take his revenge. Or he's already home,
sowing destruction for all the suitors.
QUINN: We know the man we’re dealing with here! This man is a collossus! This is a man who went to war and butchered thousands without breaking sweat. A bowel movement sends us into palpitations!
Odysseus took aim and hit the suitor with an arrow
in the throat. Its point passed through his tender neck.
He slumped onto his side, a thick spurt of human blood
came flowing quickly from his nose. Then, suddenly
he pushed the table from him with his foot, spilling
food onto the floor—the bread and roasted meat
FITZ: So tell the dream.
QUINN: He’s running up the pathway, the cypress and hyacinth heavy in the middle of the day, they fill his head and wipe out in an instant his years of exile, of war, of the journey home to her… the longing for Penelope. She’s standing there with happy tears in her eyes but he doesn’t go to her but to us and to his knife. And if only it were quick but he’s in amongst us ripping apart our legs and we’re scurrying about the floor like whinging bloodied slugs. He cracks open Fitz’s chest, reaches in and takes his heart in his hand. (pause) He’s looking at one of us three. He’s smiling. And we’re next.
She found Odysseus with the bodies of the dead suitors,
spattered with blood and gore, like a lion moving off
from feeding on a farmyard ox, his whole chest
and both sides of his muzzle caked with blood.
The Odyssey: Take Two, Three, Four…
Enda Walsh’s new play Penelope is originally inspired by Penelope’s suitors in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Walsh bases his story around the many male suitors competition for the fair Penelope’s love after her husband has failed to return home from war. Walsh is not the first to take artistic liberties with adapting Homer’s The Odyssey. Take a look at some other notable works that were inspired by Homer’s epic poem:
One of the longest-surviving adaptations of Homer’s Odyssey comes from ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, an estimated 400-years after the original was composed. Based on book nine of The Odyssey, Euripides’ play Cyclops retells the story about how Odysseus outwits the one-eyed giant in a humorous and satirical style.
In the 1920s, Irish author James Joyce penned his modern adaptation of The Odyssey in a novel called Ulysses. His ground-breaking Modernist novel chronicles Leopold Bloom’s travels through Dublin. Not only does the title allude to Homer’s epic poem, Joyce cleverly includes a series of parallels between characters and events between his book and Homer’s poem.
A more straight-forward adaptation, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel (1924) is an epic poem by the Greek poet and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis. It is divided into twenty-four rhapsodies as is the original Odyssey and consists of 33,333 17-syllable verses. Kazantzakis' Odyssey begins when Odysseus (Ulysses) returns to Ithaca and decides to undertake new adventures after he quickly becomes unsatisfied with his quiet family life. While the events from then on draw inspiration from Homer’s original, Kazantzakis takes many story-telling liberties and infuses his updated poem with modern people, places, and situations.
The 1954 Broadway musical The Golden Apple by librettist John Treville Latouche and composer Jerome Moross is freely adapted from both The Iliad and The Odyssey, re-setting the action to the American state of Washington in the years after the Spanish-American War, with events inspired by The Iliad in Act One and events inspired by The Odyssey in Act Two.
Cold Mountain is a 1997 historical fiction novel by Charles Frazier. It tells the story of W. P. Inman, a wounded deserter from the Confederate army near the end of the American Civil War who walks for months to return to Ada Monroe, the love of his life; the story shares several similarities with Homer's The Odyssey. The novel alternates chapter-by-chapter between Inman's and Ada's stories.
Druid, Ireland, founded in Galway in 1975 by recent University College Galway graduates Garry Hynes, Marie Mullen and Mick Lally, was the first professional theatre company in Ireland based outside Dublin. At first a transient theatre company performing a range of shows from full-scale productions to lunch-time entertainment, the Druid found their permanent home in 1979 at the Druid Lane Theatre. Not long after it officially planted its roots in Galway, Druid began touring shows across Ireland, often to unusual rural areas where the staff felt their works might be more meaningfully received. Druid began their international career at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1980 where they were awarded their first of many “Fringe First” awards. Since then, Druid has established itself as an international theatre to be reckoned with, touring throughout Ireland, the UK, Australia, America and Canada. Though it may have spread its wings by bringing its shows to international audiences, Druid has remained loyal to its home, producing and premiering every show it may send abroad in its long-time home of Galway.
Druid, Ireland – 10 Fun Facts
- Founded in Galway, Druid was the first professional Irish theatre company based outside of Dublin.
- Druid’s name was inspired by the characters in a 1975 comic strip Asterix the Gaul. The company needed a name to apply for a bank loan for their fledgling theatre company – they planned to change it eventually, but the name stuck.
- In the past fifteen years, Druid has premiered 23 new plays, 14 of which were the playwright’s professional debut.
- Druid has premiered the work of such renowned writers as Martin McDonagh, Owen McCafferty, Vincent Woods, Abbie Spallen, Gerald Murphy, Christian O’Reilly, and Lucy Caldwell.
- Druid tours internationally, bringing productions to the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
- Though they tour the world, all of their works premiere in their 90-seat home-base theatre, the Druid Lane Theatre.
- Like The Studio Theatre, Druid anchors a formerly rundown neighborhood, which is now a vibrant and dynamic part of their home city.
- In 1998, Artistic Director Garry Hynes became the first woman to receive a Tony Award for Direction for the Druid’s production of Martin McDonagh’s play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
- In 2008, Druid and Enda Walsh won the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe First Award for The New Electric Ballroom following their 2007 win for The Walworth Farce.
- DruidSynge, the company’s staging of all six plays by John Millington Synge in one day was described by the Irish Times as “one of the greatest achievements in the history of Irish Theatre.”