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National Touring

Since 1975 Druid has provided world class theatre for audiences in Galway and since 1977 to audiences at over one hundred locations throughout Ireland.

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Within a year of Druid’s founding, the company were bringing work to Galway city’s hinterland, with a visit to Tuam in 1976. They made their first visit to Dublin shortly after, presenting a one-act play Birdbath by Leonard Melfi at the Project Theatre in April 1977.

A significant step to gaining a national profile, however, was taken when the Edinburgh Fringe First winning productions, Island Protected by a Bridge of Glass by Garry Hynes and Bar and Ger by Geraldine Aron, were presented at the National Theatre’s smaller space, the Peacock Theatre, in the autumn of 1980, gaining Druid its first important national reviews and first significant national audiences.

1982-1983 URT (Unusual Rural Tours)

For the Playboy production of 1982 Druid created its first extensive tour, setting a pattern for national and international tours which has held into the present. After opening in Galway, the production played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Dublin Theatre Festival, Sligo, Cork, the two smaller of the Aran Islands, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr, Derry and Belfast, and cemented Druid’s embrace on equal terms audiences throughout rural Ireland, in Ireland’s towns and cities, in international theatre festivals and, not least, in Northern Ireland. The same expectations for performances and production values prevailed whether audiences were encountered in isolated areas or metropolitan centres and from this commitment the company gained a significant part of the meaning and value of their work.

Indeed, never more clearly or indellibly did the company learn the true value of their endeavours than when performing Playboy, in October 1982, before the locals of Inis Meáin and Inis O’rr, (the former, the smallest of the Aran Islands, is where Synge himself stayed, developing his speaking of Irish and, as it turned out, his imagination). As the company vividly recall, the rapt attention and laughter of the islanders released the play into its true innocence, wickedness and artistry. This trip to Inis Meáin convinced the company, above any other experience, of the value of touring directly to those rural populations where the work had most resonance.

The experience of touring Playboy and engaging with key works by Brecht (Threepenny Opera in 1979, Mother Courage in 1982) inspired the company to seek out the plays and theatrical means to investigate the west of Ireland as their spiritual home and to bring this work on tour to those parts where it could most meaningfully be received. They looked initially to M.J. Molloy’s The Wood of the Whispering and created for the production a tour that took in towns and villages throughout the west of Ireland, the smaller of the Aran Islands and extended runs in Galway and Dublin. This would prove the first of the Unusual Rural Tours, ‘URTs’, in which Druid bypassed major population centres and regional theatres and, by engaging the limitless appetite for theatre in even the least populous places in Ireland, would demonstrate the potential for a truly national touring policy.


In 1984, Druid created an extensive URT for Tom Murphy’s Famine, the second production of Murphy’s plays that Druid produced and the first with Murphy himself as a collaborator (he had by this time become writer-in-association with the company). The premier production of Murphy’s Conversations on a Homecoming in 1985 enjoyed the most extensive tour Druid had undertaken in Ireland yet, and included a performance in a prison in Dublin.


In 1993, the URT extended into Northern Ireland for At the Black Pig’s Dyke by Vincent Woods a production that engaged directly with the Troubles. A performance in Derry in July 1993 was interrupted by members of the audience who went on to stage a new ending in order to implicate the British presence in the play’s violence. Fractious though the environment for performance might be in Northern Ireland, the determination to tour here remained undiminished.


Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane more than any other production exemplified Druid’s discriminating approach to touring. Visits to major regional venues, an ‘Unusual Rural Tour’ and international touring combined to create a truly unique mix. This tour saw performances in Cape Clear Island/Oileán Chléire to the extreme south of Ireland, Rathlin Island and Arannmhór to its extreme north, locations throughout Irish-speaking and other rural regions (including Leenane itself), to small towns north and south of the border and to London. The Leenane Trilogy would also include performances in Dublin, Cork and Belfast before taking on the international stage.


The disbandonment of an Arts Council Touring Policy in 2000 saw the withdrawal of the mechanism on which Druid built its touring policy, and while it inevitably led to a reduction in Druid’s touring to rural areas, it did not at the same time see Druid abandon those audiences with whom it had built up a following in the previous eighteen years.


For one, the productions of Synge’s work that comprised the build-up and culmination of DruidSynge toured to those rural areas that had particular associations with the plays, including the setting for Playboy (Geesala on the Erris peninsula in north Mayo) and the region Christy Mahon came from (Dún Chaoin on the Corca Dhuibhne peninsula in west Kerry). The Wicklow Glens held performances of Shadow of the Glen _and _The Tinker’s Wedding. DruidSynge was performed in its entirety on the island of Inis Meáin in September 2005 in indoor and outdoor settings which included the island’s community hall, a field fronting the island’s Catholic church and the ancient ring-fort, Dún Chonchúir, a bronze age fortification at the island’s highest point.


In recent years, Druid has partnered with a touring network of regional venues, NASC, (the Irish for ‘link’) funded by The Arts Council, to bring plays on tour to some of the main population centres in rural Ireland. Druid productions to benefit from this network include John B. Keane’s The Year of the Hiker, Geraldine Aron’s My Brilliant Divorce, Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan and later this year, Tom Murphy’s The Gigli Concert. Druid has also successfully toured the work of Enda Walsh – The New Electric Ballroom – to rural venues, this time without NASC support, an unqualified demonstration both of the strength of audience support for Druid and the preparedness of rural audiences to engage with contemporary work.

Druid continues to renew its commitment to touring every year and to lobby for the most effective means by which to deliver on this commitment. This in particular remains a work-in-progress.


This page was archived on 28/03/2017 and is no longer updated.

The contents of this page may be out of date or incomplete. Go here to browse our current site