Druid Shakespeare details unveiled

Garry Hynes, Druid’s artistic director announcing details of DruidShakespeare. 
Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Garry Hynes, Druid’s artistic director announcing details of DruidShakespeare. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

DRUID THEATRE Company has announced details for one of its most ambitious undertakings, DruidShakespeare, a fitting project to mark the company’s 40th anniversary year.

DruidShakespeare is an exploration of English history through an Irish lens. Writer Mark O’Rowe has produced a pared-down version of Shakespeare’s historical plays, Richard II, Henry IV (Pts 1 & 2 ), and Henry V, which will be presented as an epic six-hour theatrical experience. Audiences can also choose to view the plays over one or two days.

With an ensemble cast of 13 - including Marie Mullen, Bosco Hogan, Aaron Monaghan, Aisling O’Sullivan, Derbhle Crotty, John Olohan, and Marty Rea - the event will premiere in Druid’s home, The Mick Lally Theatre, in May, before embarking on an extensive Irish tour, before productions in New York at the Lincoln Center Festival, co-producers of the venture.

Speaking about the collaboration with Mark O’Rowe, Druid artistic director Garry Hynes said: “This collaboration, along with a cast of Ireland’s finest actors, is a tremendously exciting opportunity. Acting is first and foremost an act of imagination, both on the part of the actors and the audience. That act of imagination transcends nationality, character, geography and background and we see no reason why it shouldn’t transcend gender too.

“Accordingly, our actors have been cast without regard to their own gender. For example, the three kings – Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V – are played by one male and two female actors. This decision further allows us to look at these plays of war and patriarchy through another lens.”

The production marks something of a departure for Druid as the company’s only previous Shakespearean outing was Much Ado About Nothing  in 1981.

“The original impetus for this production was to engage with Shakespeare,” says Hynes. “The further impetus was to engage with the history plays and we gradually began to focus down on these four plays. When you are going into the room with such an extraordinary dead writer it is a good idea to have a living writer to help fight that battle which is where Mark O’Rowe came in.

“The question we are asking is how, in the context of the historical relationship between Ireland and England, do we as Irish artists produce these plays today? You can’t get away from the fact that Ireland is present in those plays, it’s part of their story. It’s constantly there in the margin, creating trouble. Also our culture is imbued with that struggle, that colonial past. This is a way of doing these plays about English kings and queens and telling this story while creating our own theatre language for it.”

In an exciting development, the production will encompass not just The Mick Lally Theatre, but will extend across Druid Lane to the 13th century Hall of the Red Earl , creating a unique celebration of the work and a new chapter in the company’s history in what will be a wonderful voyage through a part of Galway that has been home to Druid for so long.

“We decided to do this production in our home the Mick Lally Theatre, whereas most of our previous big shows have been in the Town Hall,” Hynes explains. “As part of the process of re-engaging with Druid Lane we went to our neighbours, the Civic Trust and the OPW, and asked them would they be interested in being partners in the project and they immediately said yes which is great.”

Wildfire Films will also produce a documentary on DruidShakespeare for RTÉ following the journey of the making of the plays. It will be directed by Maurice Sweeney and screened in the autumn.

Meanwhile, Garry Hynes announced the appointment of Druid Ensemble member Marty Rea as new writing associate. “It will be very exciting to see the point of view of the actor being brought into the process of the development of new writing” she says. “This is a natural step in the development of the role of the ensemble in Druid’s work.”

Hynes also announced a continuation of FUEL: Druid’s Emerging Artists Residency. Based on the success of last year’s initiative, the company will continue to provide rehearsal space, hot desk facilities, production support and professional advice to emerging artists based in the west of Ireland following an open call later this year.

DruidShakespeare previews at the Mick Lally Theatre from May 9 to 14. It opens on May 17 and runs until May 30. Tickets are on sale via www.druid.ie or by contacting the venue directly. See www.druid.ie

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