Writer: Tom Murphy
Director: Garry Hynes
Reviewer: Monica Insinga
The return of the Druid to the Dublin Theatre Festival with two companion pieces by Tom Murphy, Brigit and Bailegangaire (they are in fact part of a trilogy with A Thief of a Christmas)directed by the majestic Garry Hynes, could be felt as a defining moment for the audience of the double bill last night at The Olympia. The same as with the DruidSynge and the DruidMurphy, this reviewer expected to witness something that would linger in her memory for years to come, even if only for the great Marie Mullen playing the iconic Mommo in both pieces.
While Bailegangaire is considered a masterpiece of Murphy’s corpus, Brigit, it could be argued, needs to be seen alongside its companion in order to be fully appreciated. In a reversal of time and rôles, Brigit is set thirty years before Bailegangaire, while it was written thirty years after it; also, while meeting Mommo and her granddaughters before the tragedies had taken hold of their family, does not necessarily add up to an understanding of Bailegangaire, Brigit is given further meaning if you’re aware of where these characters are going. Having said that, Brigit’s writing and dramaturgy are actually quite different, which would make it possible for this play to stand alone on the bill.
At the core of this play is a reflection about art and what it means to live as an artist with a family depending on you and for that it is ageless. The set, lighting and sound—by Francis O’Connor, Rick Fisher and Gregory Clarke—exemplify the fractures existing in the relationships between Seamus (played by an impressive Bosco Hogan), his wife Mommo and the commissioning members of the clergy, Father Kigarrif and the Reverend Mother (played by the accomplished and always on point Marty Rea and Jane Brennan). Hogan plays the part of the obsessed artist trying to come to terms with Brigit, one of the greatest female figures in Irish culture, while ignoring everybody around him, with the right intensity and perfect technique.
Visually the two pieces are both striking and the juxtaposition of Brigit’s statue alongside Marie Mullen’s Mommo at the end of the first piece fulfils the play’s expectations and it also gives us a glimpse of what’s to come in the monumental Bailegangaire.
Photo courtesy of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Runs until October 5th.