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Marie ‘digs deep’ in Druid’s major tribute to Tom Murphy



Date Published: 06-Jun-2012

I’m so glad I was asked to be part of this,” says actress Marie Mullen about her involvement in DruidMurphy, the epic project which sees Druid Theatre staging three of Tom Murphy’s finest plays – Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine.


This isn’t false modesty from one of Ireland’s finest actors – “they could easily have been staged without me,” says Marie of the two plays she’s involved in. But, given her long association with Tom Murphy and Druid, it would have been most unlikely. In fact, so highly does Tom Murphy regard Marie’s talent and her work ethic that he specifically asked for her to be part of DruidMurphy.

The three plays, which explore issues around emigration, are currently running at the city’s Town Hall Theatre, before the production opens in London later this month as part of that city’s Cultural Olympiad.

Individual plays are being staged on separate evenings, with all three being presented in a full cycle on selected days. The first full DruidMurphy cycle took place last Sunday.

“Sunday was really strange because we didn’t really know how they were going to go down, but we were greeted with such warmth,” says Marie of the audience reaction.

“During Conversations, they were guffawing, they were game ball for Whistle and we thought they might be exhausted then, but they were energised for Famine.”

After the performance, the cast were joined on stage by Tom Murphy, so it was a very emotional day for everybody concerned.

DruidMurphy is a unique journey for Marie, who previously appeared in both Conversations and Famine with Druid during the 1980s. The company she, Garry Hynes and Mick Lally had founded was in its early years then and she says working with Tom Murphy changed everything.

“When he came to us as Writer-in-Residence, he was there to help us and challenge us. The company grew up when Tom came to us.”

He treated them like grown-ups, she says – and he extends that respect to his audience as well.

“His writing shows us what we are like, good and bad,” she says. With a play like A Whistle in the Dark, he introduces the violent emigrant Irish family, the Carneys and “helps us to understand them and be appalled by them”.

As a writer, Tom Murphy isn’t afraid to go into the dark places of the soul, so his plays are challenging for actors – and rewarding once you are prepared to put the work in.

“If you are ‘surfacey’ you won’t land what he means – you have to come up with something that’s worthy of him.”

And given that Marie regards Tom as being central to her career, he is worthy of the best from her.

“The highlights of me learning my craft belong to Tom,” she says, as she recalls working on his play, Bailgangaire with Siobhán McKenna and Mary McEvoy, under Garry’s direction.

Tom was deeply involved in that production and “he made me search and look for authenticity and made me look deeply. He made me dig”.


Marie is an actress who ‘digs’ in every role she takes on – it is that capacity which has makes her so special on stage, and which has seen her win accolades and awards, including a Tony for her role as Maureen in the Beauty Queen of Leenane.

For the current production of Conversations on a Homecoming, she is taking on the role of Missus which was played by Pat Leavy in Druid’s original production in 1985. Back then, Marie played Peggy – that role is being taken by Eileen Walsh this time.

This is a different experience to first time around, says Marie, name-checking the original cast of Maeliosa Stafford, Ray McBride, Michael Brennan and Seán McGinley – her husband.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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