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The Theatre of Tom Murphy

Nicholas Grene edited by Patrick Lonergan and Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.

DOI: 10.5040/9781472568144

ISBN: 9781472568113

Tom Murphy shot to fame with the London production of A Whistle in the Dark in 1961, establishing him as the outstanding Irish playwright of his generation. The international success of DruidMurphy, the 2012-13 staging of three of his major plays by the Druid Theatre Company, served to underline his continuing appeal and importance. This is the first full scale academic study devoted to his theatre, providing an overview of all his work, with a detailed reading of his most significant texts.

His powerful and searchingly honest engagement with Irish history and society is reflected in the violent Whistle in the Dark, the epic Famine (1968), the often hilarious Conversations on a Homecoming (1985) and the darkly Chekhovian The House (2000). Folklore and myth figure more prominently in the spiritual drama of The Sanctuary Lamp (1975), the Faustian Gigli Concert (1983) and the women's stories of Bailegangaire (1985). The range and reach of Murphy's theatre is demonstrated in this informed reading, supported by key interviews with the playwright himself and his most important theatrical and critical interpreters.

'The best and most complete [book on Murphy] that anyone has yet produced and all future scholars and critics will use it as a diving board from which to plunge into Murphy's deep and turbulent waters.' Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times

'Grene (emer., Trinity College Dublin) offers a portrait of Tom Murphy (b. 1935) that is both exhaustive and brilliant. Developed from Grene's years of interest in contemporary theater, the book illuminates Murphy's creative process and examines the strengths and shortcomings of his artistic journey. Of particular interest is Grene's exploration of the playwright's extensive reading, personal experience, and archival materials that support the published plays. The study is an extensive examination of Murphy's canon, with specific attention to significant plays grouped according to common themes or theatrical devices … Grene's careful study of Murphy's plays and the influences on his work can stand alone as a significant contribution to the appreciation of contemporary Irish theater. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.' CHOICE

'Nicholas Grene is a trusty guide through the work. He finds a common thread in otherwise very different plays ... Grene has done justice to one man's intrepid journey across the theatrical boards.' Times Literary Supplement