Celebrated Irish playwright Tom Murphy died May 15 at age 83. Throughout his long career, Mr. Murphy worked extensively with two of Ireland's most distinguished theatres: Dublin's Abbey Theatre, which presented 19 world premieres of original works and adaptations by the playwright, as well as a season retrospective of his work in 2001; and The Druid Theatre Company in Galway.
Mr. Murphy's myriad plays included On the Outside, A Whistle in the Dark, Conversations on a Homecoming, Bailegangaire, Famine, The Morning After Optimism, The Sanctuary Lamp, She Stoops to Conquer, A Crucial Week in the life of a Grocer’s Assistant, The Wake, The Patriot Game, The Blue Macushla, Epitaph Under Ether, and The Gigli Concert.
“Tom Murphy had an intimate understanding of Irish identity, tackling themes of religion, emigration and redemption. His plays are imbued with a unique juxtaposition between violence and dark humor, yearning and rage. Tom was ever daring, pushing the boundaries of Irish Theatre, and challenging us with disturbing images of Irish life,“ said Graham McLaren and Neil Murray, directors of the Abbey Theatre, in an online statement.
Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins also expressed his sadness at learning of the news: “The importance of Tom Murphy’s contribution to Irish theatre is immeasurable and outstanding. We have had no greater use of language for the stage than in the body of work produced by Tom Murphy since his earliest work in the 1960s.”
“Both in his work and as a person, he was the essence of life and a life force in every possible respect,” frequent collaborator and Druid Co-Founder and Artistic Director Garry Hynes told Ireland’s RTÉ News. Druid will hold a public memorial for the playwright May 17.
The Druid Theatre Company's DruidMurphy, a trio of Mr. Murphy dramas—Conversations on a Homecoming, Whistle in the Dark and Famine—was seen in New York in 2012 as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. The production went on to play the Kennedy Center in the fall that same year.
Mr. Murphy is survived by his wife Jane Brennan, an actor who appeared in a number of his plays. He is also survived by his three children and a granddaughter.