Since 1979, Druid has owned a theatre building in Galway City Centre. The former tea storehouse was originally owned by the McDonaghs, one of Galway’s famous merchant families. In the late 1970s, the company negotiated a peppercorn rent with the owners which enabled the company to renovate and install its own venue and rehearsal space - which the McDonagh family later generously donated to Druid. In 2011, following extensive refurbishment, what was originally known as the Druid Theatre was renamed The Mick Lally Theatre in memory of Druid co-founder, the late Mick Lally. The theatre serves not only as a dedicated workspace for the company but it has also established itself as a landmark cultural facility for the promotion and the development of the arts in Galway. Throughout the years, the lane on which the theatre is situated has gone by numerous names; including Red Earls’ Lane, Chapel Lane, Courthouse Lane, and since 1996, Druid Lane, when Galway City Council renamed it in celebration of the company’s 21st birthday.
For over forty four years, Druid has presented groundbreaking work and aims to create electrifying theatre. As well as touring extensively across Ireland, the company’s productions have played internationally to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. Druid has garnered an international reputation for classical and new Irish writing, and is one of the most well-known and respected companies in the English-speaking theatre world. It has been a pioneer in the development of Irish theatre and is generally credited (alongside Macnas and the Galway Arts Festival) with making Galway one of the primary cultural centres in Ireland.
In 1996, Druid premiered Martin McDonagh’s debut play The Beauty Queen of Leenane', in a co-production with the Royal Court Theatre, London. Following a strong opening in Galway, the production played across Ireland, in London, Sydney, and New York. During its Broadway run, the production won four Tony Awards, including Best Director for Garry Hynes - the first woman to win an award for directing in the history of the awards ceremony. In 2005, the company presented DruidSynge, an production of all six plays of John Millington Synge as a day-long theatrical event, at the Galway Arts Festival to critical acclaim. Several years later, Druid revived a trilogy of Tom Murphy’s plays (Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine) entitled DruidMurphy; this production later dominated the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards in 2014. Druid continued to present ambitious large-scale ensemble productions in 2015 with DruidShakespeare - William Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V in a new adaptation by Mark O'Rowe - which toured Ireland, the UK and the prestigious Lincoln Center Festival.
As of 2013, a permanent Druid Ensemble exists to work alongside artistic director Garry Hynes to further the artistic programme of the company and share a commitment to "investigate new creative possibilities." This ensemble is composed of seven actors who have performed in numerous Druid productions over the last thirty years. Alongside founding member Marie Mullen, the Druid ensemble are, Marty Rea, Rory Nolan, Aaron Monaghan, Aisling O’Sullivan, Garrett Lombard and Derbhle Crotty.
This is extensive list of the key productions which have been produced and performed by the Druid Theatre Company over the span of forty four years. However, some productions have been omitted. All information can be found at the Druid website Archive.
DruidMurphy: Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark, Famine; by Tom Murphy. Directed by Garry Hynes and starring Aaron Monaghan, Marty Rea, Marie Mullen, Garrett Lombard, Rory Nolan, John Olohan, Eileen Walsh, Niall Buggy, Sarah Greene, Gavin Drea (2012).
Be Infants in Evil, by Brian Martin. World premiere presented as part of a double bill with Bailegangaire, directed by Garry Hynes and starring Marty Rea (2014).
Brigit, by Tom Murphy. World premiere, directed by Garry Hynes and starring Marie Mullen, Catherine Walsh, Aisling O’Sullivan, Marty rea, Jane Brennan, (2014).
DruidShakespeare: Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Henry V, by William Shakespeare, adapted by Mark O’Rowe (2015). Directed by Garry Hynes and starring Marty Rea, Marie Mullen, Aisling O’Sullivan, Derbhle Crotty, Aaron Monaghan, Rory Nolan, Garrett Lombard, John Olohan, Gavin Drea.
Garry Hynes returned to the Druid Theatre Company as its artistic director in 1995, after stepping down from the Abbey Theatre (Artistic Director, 1991-1994). It was during this time that Hynes and her colleague Anne Butler read The Beauty Queen of Leenane - a script submitted by an unknown writer named Martin McDonagh. Several months later, on 1 February 1996, McDonagh’s play received its world premiere at the newly refurbished Town Hall Theatre, Galway, in a co-production between Druid and the Royal Court Theatre, London. Directed by Hynes, the cast consisted of four actors: Druid founding member Marie Mullen as Maureen Foley; Anna Manahan as her elderly mother Mag; Brian F. O’Byrne as Ray Dooley; and Tom Murphy as Pato Dooley. The response, from both audiences and critics alike, was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. As noted in the Sunday Times on 10 March 1996, The Beauty Queen of Leenane was "one of the most exhilarating debuts in years".
The production then toured Ireland before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 24 Feb 1996. Following this critically acclaimed run, the production moved to Ireland where it embarked on an extensive national tour before returning again to London’s West End where it played at the Duke of York’s Theatre for several months, beginning on 29 November 1996. It was later nominated at the 1996 Olivier Awards for Play of the Year. In February 1998, the production received its American Off-Broadway premiere at the Linda Gross Theater, in a co-production with the Atlantic Theater Company, before it transferred to Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre on 23 April 1998.[circular reference]
Later that year, The Beauty Queen of Leenane received six nominations at the 52nd Tony Awards - Best Play, Best Direction of a Play, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, as well as two nominations for Best Supporting Actor. At the ceremony on 7 June, the production won four awards: Best Actress (Marie Mullen); Best Supporting Actress (Anna Manahan); Best Supporting Actor (Tom Murphy); and Best Director for Garry Hynes - a historical win as Hynes became the first female recipient of a Tony Award for Direction.
In addition, the original Druid Theatre production received the 1998 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play; the Drama League Award for Best Play; the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Broadway Play; and the Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Director.The Beauty Queen of Leenane has since gone on to be staged across the world in several languages, but Druid’s original version remains, for many, the definitive production.
In 2016, to mark the 20th anniversary of the iconic production, Druid revived The Beauty Queen of Leenane with Marie Mullen. Having originated the role of Maureen, Mullen now played the role of Mag. The production also starred Druid ensemble members Aisling O’Sullivan (Maureen), Marty Rea and Aaron Monaghan. At that year’s Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards, Hynes won the Award for Best Director while both Mullen and O’Sullivan received separate nominations for Best Actress.
Described by the Irish Times as "one of the greatest achievements in the history of Irish theatre", this ambitious collective presentation of all six plays fulfilled a long-term artistic commitment by Garry Hynes to re-evaluate and re-engage with one of Ireland’s dramatic giants. The repertoire was performed as a series of double bills over two or three days. Alternatively, on selected dates, it was possible to attend all six plays as a day-long cycle which lasted over eight hours. On day-cycles, some performers of the ensemble changed roles up to five times As Felicity O’Brien, the show’s producer, commented: "They really have to pace themselves and be careful, but at the same time, it’s an amazing challenge for any actor."
DruidSynge premiered at the 2005 Galway Arts Festival, opening at the Town Hall Theatre on Saturday 16 July, followed by performances in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre and the Edinburgh International Festival before concluding its 2005 run with a week of stunning performances on the Aran Island of Inis Meain in a range of locations including a unique open-air setting at Dun Chonchur (a large circular walled fortress). DruidSynge involved a company of nineteen actors performing across the repertoire. It was met with great acclaim on the world stage, playing at the Guthrie Centre, Minneapolis, and the Lincoln Center in New York City where it was acclaimed by Charles Isherwood of The New York Times as "the highlight not just of my theatregoing year but of my theatregoing life."
Since 1890, there existed a strong working relationship between Druid and the Irish playwright Tom Murphy. In 1985, Druid presented the world premieres of Conversations on a Homecoming and Bailegangaire - considered to be two of Murphy’s greatest plays.
In November 2011, Garry Hynes announced the company’s next large-scale ensemble project would be entitled DruidMurphy - three plays by Tom Murphy presented as a trilogy. This theatrical event was co-produced by Druid, NUI Galway, the Galway Arts Festival, Lincoln Center Festival in New York City and the Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut where the world’s largest collection of art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the Great Irish Famine resides. Although Murphy did not expressly write the plays Conversations on a Homecoming (1985), A Whistle in the Dark (1961) and Famine (1968) as a trilogy, Druid’s presentation of the three plays sought to connect them thematically in order to provide an illuminating and "unflinching look at the impact of emigration on the Irish psyche over a hundred year period". As Garry Hynes noted: "Murphy writes an inner history of Ireland, a nation that has now - under the pressure of a debt crisis that has become an identity crisis - come to re-examine the materials and rhetorical strategies out of which it makes itself."
DruidMurphy received its premiere at the Galway Arts Festival 2012. Following the festival, the trilogy conducted an extensive national tour of Ireland - playing in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Tuam, Dublin, Inis Mor and Inis Meain of the Aran Islands, before transferring to the Oxford Playhouse, followed by the Hampstead Theatre in London, the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. All three plays were directed by Garry Hynes with a repertoire cast consisting of sixteen actors including recurring Druid performers Marie Mullen, Aaron Monaghan, Garrett Lombard, Rory Nolan, Marty Rea, Gavin Drea, Eileen Walsh and John Olohan. Depending on the venue, the trilogy could be viewed individually over three consecutive evenings or experienced as a day-long cycle which lasted over nine hours.
The theatrical event won Best Production at the 2012 Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards and received widespread critical acclaim, being hailed by The New York Times as "epic theatre making".DruidMurphy dominated the acting categories with a further six nominations. Marty Rea, Gavin Drea and Eileen Walsh were nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress respectively for their performances in A Whistle in the Dark. Garrett Lombard, Aaron Monaghan and Marie Mullen received nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively.
At the March 2015 press launch for DruidShakespeare, Hynes voiced her opinion that "acting is, first and foremost, an act of imagination. That imagination transcends nationality, character, geography, background; and we see no reason why it shouldn’t transcend gender either." With Druid’s decision to utilise gender-blind casting, the roles of King Richard II, King Henry IV and Hal/King Henry V were performed by one male actor and two female actors: Druid Ensemble members Marty Rea, Derbhle Crotty and Aisling O’Sullivan respectively.
DruidShakespeare premiered at Druid’s own Mick Lally Theatre, rather than Galway’s Town Hall Theatre - a first for Druid’s major productions. Described as an "enthralling marathon production" by The New York Times, the production ran for over six hours and was viewed as either a day-long presentation or divided into two halves across consecutive evenings, with an ensemble of thirteen actors - consisting of primarily Druid recurring performers - playing more than fifty characters across the four plays. It later toured across Ireland before transferring to the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre in New York City, after which it returned to Ireland where it played as the closing production for the Kilkenny Arts Festival 2015.
The production was critically acclaimed, with Peter Crawley of The Irish Times stating that "[t[here is nothing quite as beautiful, or as torturous, as the crown of England we see in Druid’s remarkable staging".DruidShakespeare dominated the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards 2015 where it won Best Production, Best Director, Best Actress (Derbhle Crotty), Best Actor (Marty Rea), Best Costume Design while also acquiring nominations for Best Actress (Aisling O’Sullivan), Best Supporting Actor (Rory Nolan), Best Set Design, Best Sound Design, and a Judge’s Special Award nomination for the way in which the company had assembled and enabled a group of actors to work as a true ensemble, "the pinnacle of this rare achievement being DruidShakespeare."
Druid presented DruidShakespeare: Richard III in 2018, a follow-up to their Henriad Cycle which was co-produced with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. It premiered on 22 September at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway before moving to the Abbey Theatre where it ran from 3 - 27 October. In January 2019, the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards shortlist announced that the Druid production of Richard III had been recognised for Best Production, Best Director (Garry Hynes), Best Actor (Aaron Monaghan), Best Set Design, and Best Costume Design. The winners will be announced on 31 March.