Artistic director Garry Hynes tells Nick Awde why Druid is in a better position than many of the ECoC shows that have had to cancel
One of the highlights of Ireland’s Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 festival is Druid: The Galway Tour. Currently postponed, this ambitious tour was intending to create, rehearse and perform classic Irish one-act plays in communities across the county from May to July.
Galway 2020 has lost all performances in its year-long programme since the lockdown in Ireland started in March. “Like everybody else, we’ve drawn up plans and potentials, we’ve plan A, plan B and so on,” says Garry Hynes, Druid’s artistic director.
“But because we produce our own season in Galway, we wouldn’t have been hit as hard as people commissioned by Galway 2020 who literally had to stop whatever they were rehearsing or performing.”
Druid has just finished its run of The Cherry Orchard, one of its other big productions of the year. “We ended in Galway the Saturday before restrictions started to come in. We also had the live event broadcast the previous week, so we were fortunate in that respect.”
However, the production, directed by Hynes, was to have transferred in April to the Bord Gáis theatre in Dublin – and hopes are now that it will be rescheduled for the autumn.
Meanwhile, Druid is streaming some of its work for free, including JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, part of its DruidSynge day-long cycle of all six of the Irish playwright’s works.
While Druid: The Galway Tour is financed by Galway 2020, it is very much a Druid project and came about for a number of reasons, says Hynes. “Touring is very much part of the DNA of Druid. We’ve been doing it for 40 years and going into small communities, say somewhere like Inish Meáin (one of the Aran Islands), is very much part of that process.
“Also, Druid used to produce a lot of the one-act plays in our first 10 years. As a form, they have fallen away now and we thought it would be great to go back to them because, for the most part, they are rarely performed these days.
“So we put together a selection of them to see what it tells us about what it is to be Irish; those one acts were very subconsciously trying to find out what this new state of Ireland in the 20th century was, and who we were and who we might be in the future.”
Plays being presented include Lady Gregory’s The Rising of the Moon, Seán O’Casey’s A Pound on Demand, TC Murray’s The Briery Gap and Teresa Deevy’s The King of Spain’s Daughter.
Representing not only a significant chunk of the European Capital of Culture’s 12 months, but also Galway theatre, the tour has to feature high on the list of events to be reprogrammed when the lockdown ends and the calendar opens up again.
“Obviously a pandemic in the middle of a year-long celebration of culture is a nightmare,” says Hynes. “But Galway 2020 has made it clear that whatever happens with this year, it will be a contracted version of the programme we initially envisaged and we’re in conversation with them about this.
“We wouldn’t want to take the tour elsewhere. It was a project that we dreamed up of in the context of Galway 2020, and we want to be part of that. The communities are really excited about it and I’m sure they’ll bear with us as we work to reschedule it for later in the year.”