Interview with Garry Hynes, co-founder and artistic director,
Druid Theatre Company
With the Galway-based Druid Theatre Company now hosting its innovative DruidShakespeare productions at An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny, Donegal and touring the western Irish coast over the next few weeks before heading to the Lincoln Center Festival New York (see dates below), WorldItineraries took the opportunity to interview Garry Hynes, Tony Award winner and the company’s co-founder and artistic director.
Q: ‘Event theater ‘ and ‘epic theatre’ – how do you define the terms and what added qualities does DruidShakespeare bring to this aspect of drama?
A: As a lover of all things theatrical, I believe something very special happens when an audience and a group of actors are together in room for a prolonged period of time. Through DruidShakespeare, with show durations of over three hours, and six hours when all the plays are run together, we attempt to present greater layers of character complexity than you would have through a straightforward single production. Through Bolingbroke in both ‘Richard II’ and ‘Henry IV,’ for example, you witness a man’s struggles and his development from banished lord to king as he takes the throne, then his thoughts and action as he faces difficulties from former supporters, until his eventual loss of the crown.
Q: Shakespeare is unmistakable in style. But each production company attempts to bring its own flavor to the soup. What are the Druid-isque qualities and sensibilities you contribute to the bard’s work?
A: We wanted to present the stories not exactly through the eyes of Irish people but in our own Irish way, meaning in our own voices not through formal English voices and through our own costumes made by our design department, using local materials. We are also proud that elements of the costumes were created by the Inis Meáin Knitting Company in the Aran Islands, Galway. Even the peat used for the stage floor is peat moss from Galway.
Q: On the subject of ‘gender blind’ characterization. In today’s unfolding Ireland, as illustrated by the recent same-sex referendum, such erstwhile strict gender borders are being broken, was this in your mind when you actor-selected for the various roles in ‘Richard II,’ ‘Henry IV’ and ‘Henry V’?
A: Unfortunately, there are very few strong roles for women in Shakespeare’s plays and, as I wanted to work with some of our best actors, I certainly didn’t want to rule anybody out of the cast simply because they were female. Also, these excellent actresses are not just impersonating men, they are bringing added dimensions of character to their roles. It may be the first time in Ireland that this approach to role-playing has been achieved.
Q: You and your partner, film producer Martha O’Neill, enjoyed a civil partnership ceremony last winter. With the impending change in marriage equality in Ireland, are you both now considering marriage?
A: I am absolutely thrilled the referendum was passed and by such a high margin, but Martha and I have enjoyed our day out so we have no such plans.
Q: In reference to the dramatic and resounding music that accompanies the three Shakespeare plays – tell readers a little more about it and what input you had in its formation.
A: It was composed by Conor Linehan and while we chatted a lot about it as it developed, ultimately it was all Conor’s work and wonderful it is too. He started working on it in February and completed it by the beginning of May.
Directed by Tony-award winning director Garry Hynes, Mark O’Rowe’s new pared down version of Shakespeare’s four history plays, the key foundational narrative of the English monarchy—Richard II, Henry IV (Pts. 1 & 2) and Henry V, is presented as an epic theatrical experience, performed by a cast that includes the Druid Ensemble.
Letterkenny, 03 – 06 June, An Grianán Theatre
Sligo, 9 – 13 June, Hawk’s Well Theatre
Galway, 16, 17, 19 & 20 June, The Mick Lally Theatre
Limerick, 23 – 27 June, Lime Tree Theatre
Skibbereen, 29 June, Town Hall
New York Lincoln Center Festival, 07 – 19 July, Gerald W. Lynch Theater
Kilkenny Arts Festival, 06 – 15 August, The Castle Yard