OVER THE past few years Galway audiences have become well acquainted with the work of Enda Walsh due to his association with Druid which has yielded riveting plays like The Walworth Farce, New Electric Ballroom, and Penelope.
Now, from Toronto, comes an acclaimed production of Walsh’s Bedbound by MacKenzieRo: The Irish Repertory Theatre Company of Canada which is making its first visit to these shores.
It is largely thanks to Druid that the visit is happening; members of the two companies met up when Druid visited Toronto two years ago with The Walworth Farce and a friendship developed which has led to the Canadians now coming to Galway and performing in Druid.
MacKenzieRo was founded by director Autumn Smith and actor Cathy Murphy and, over a transatlantic phone call ahead of their Galway visit, Autumn talked about the company and its work.
“Cathy and I have known each other forever!” Autumn begins, in recalling the company’s beginnings. “About 10 years ago we spent some time in the UK and Ireland and when we got back to Canada we noticed there was a lack of pub theatre so we initially set up the company to fill that niche.
“We both have Irish roots and we then started doing more Irish plays as no one else was doing them and then we decided to focus mainly on Irish work. We also create new work so those would be the two strands of what we do.”
More than four million Canadians can lay claim to Irish ancestry and MacKenzieRo is the only theatre company in the country dedicated to exploring the shared heritage between Canada and Ireland.
The voice of the Irish in Canada is at the centre of their artistic practice. Not unlike Druid the company has also developed an association with the plays of Enda Walsh, staging the Canadian premieres of Disco Pigs and New Electric Ballroom, as well as Bedbound.
Autumn describes Walsh’s appeal for the company.
“Initially we did Disco Pigs that was like a waterfall of words and ideas,” she says. “The way Walsh presents a story, I get a really visceral response reading his work. And there’s something incredibly human about his characters. His language can be both angry and beautiful at the same time and his stories are ultimately very moving.
“When we’ve staged his plays audiences are left breathless by them and we find also that actors are really keen to do his plays so we’ve been lucky in having some of Canada’s leading actors join us to be in Enda’s plays. With Bedbound the story is really universal, it crosses national boundaries.”
In Bedbound a father and a daughter share a small bed. He talks frantically about his extraordinary past in furniture sales; she talks no less compulsively about anything at all, to fill the terrifying silence in her head.
They are the sole inhabitants of their suffocating and filthy quarters where language is nothing short of a basic biological function. The play is both feverish and blackly comic offering a beautifully judged glimpse of redemption.
“Though his plays have a clear sense of place and he writes in the distinct dialects of particular Irish counties, it is striking that Walsh’s work, when performed in different languages (up to 20 worldwide ) still retains its sense of evocativeness and relevance,” Autumn notes.
“With this tour, we present Walsh in a Toronto dialect. In so doing, we offer a glimpse into the manner in which diverse Canadian ethnic communities identify with Walsh and hope to communicate that one of the reasons Walsh is among the greatest playwrights currently at work, is the manner in which his stories and characters cut across geographies. We’re all thrilled at the prospect of now bringing the play to Galway and performing it in Druid.”
Bedbound is directed by Autumn Smith and performed by Richard Greenblatt and Cathy Murphy. It is at Druid from Wednesday March 30 to Saturday April 2 at 8pm nightly.
MacKenzieRo’s developing work, The Rake’s Progress: Do You Know Where Tom Rakewell Is?, will also be read at Druid Lane Theatre on April 2 with a cast of Irish and Canadian actors.
In addition, Teacht i dTír, Murphy and Smith’s play (written in Irish and English ) about the 38,000 famine refugees who arrived in Toronto in 1847, will be taken to the Gaeltacht schools of Ireland as part of an international arts outreach in association with Diaspora Dialogues.
Tickets for their Druid Lane Theatre shows are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie