Tom Murphy (1935-) is Ireland’s greatest living playwright, with over 20 plays to his credit from his breakthrough success A Whistle in the Dark (1961) to Brigit (2014). Based on the full archive of his papers in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, this online exhibition explores his achievements, the genesis of his work, and the triumphant staging of his drama by the Abbey and Druid Theatres.
The play, set in a small town in Ireland, covers a week in the life of young man, a shop-boy, who can neither live in nor leave his home town; who can neither marry his bank-clerk girl nor end the romance. The forces, imaginary and real, preventing him making a decision are: his own weakness, self-consciousness, class consciousness, community life – the provinces – the neighbours, the church, his parents, fear of the unknown etc. (2/3)
The ending of A Whistle in the Dark used in London premiere of the play staged by Theatre Workshop at Stratford East in 1961 in which Michael, deserted after he has killed his much loved brother Des, is left by his wife Betty and turned in to the police by his father Dada, assisted by the family hanger-on Mush. (1/2)
Gigli sings Donizetti
The play submitted to the Abbey Theatre: A four hour play before the silly clots turned it into a three-and-a-half hour one. Many extras, too numerous to mention, as distinct from what can be seen on the stage or what can be seen in the Gallery Press publication.
Next year the penultimate draft: a wonderful five hour play. (2/2)
(A bed – the head-end down stage – and an old woman sitting beside it)
Now! And let ye be settling, my fondlings. Cause there’s a lot of people calling on me tonight. And I’ll be telling ye my nice story again. Yis, how Bailegangáire came by its appellation. Och ho-no ho ’gus haha, for isn’t it a good one! (2/2)
The legendary performance of Siobhán McKenna as the senile grandmother Mommo repeatedly telling her always unfinished story in the Druid Theatre Company premiere of Bailegangaire in 1985; her carer granddaughter is played by Marie Mullen.
Curated by Nicholas Grene (School of English, Trinity College Dublin), and Liam Harrison.
For technical assistance we owe huge thanks to Greg Sheaf (Digital Systems and Services, the Library of Trinity College Dublin).
For permission to use photographs, we gratefully acknowledge the following: Dan Bourke, Corralea Court Tuam, Tom Lawlor, Paul McCarthy, Pat Redmond, Amelia Stein, Áras an Uachtaráin / Maxwells Photography.
From within Trinity College we wish to thank the following for their support of the project: Helen Shenton (Librarian and College Archivist), Jane Maxwell (Curator of Manuscripts), Caoimhe Ní Lochlainn (Head of Media Relations, Public Affairs and Communications), Sharon Sutton (Digital Resources and Imaging), Brian McGovern (IT Services).
For the filming and editing of the video, we are very grateful for the excellent work of Barry Lynch (Infocus Media).
For permissions and help in identifying archival sources outside Trinity College, we have to thank the following: Barry Houlihan (Hardiman Library, NUI, Galway), Mairéad Delaney (Abbey Theatre), Holly Faulkner (Gate Theatre), Róisín Stack (Communications, Druid Theatre).
Sourcing Images. We are grateful to Susan Furber (Bloomsbury) and Riana O’Dwyer (NUI, Galway) for sourcing images used in the exhibition. Above all, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Tom Murphy who generously loaned us so many photographs from his personal collection.
For kindly agreeing to be interviewed for the exhibition, we wish to thank most warmly: Garry Hynes, Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín.