The leading Irish theatre designer of her generation, Monica Frawley’s sets often seemed infused with an elemental quality that imbued the poetic, landscape-rooted texts of playwright peers such as Marina Carr, Tom Murphy, Brian Friel and Frank McGuinness with vividly telling substance.
It was a sensibility that was also eloquently expressed in revivals of classic plays. Of her set for Dion Boucicault’s The Shaughraun at the Abbey Theatre in her native Dublin in 1990, The Stage remarked that it “suggested the primal altar of ancient wargods”.
The recipient of several Irish Times theatre awards and other accolades, Frawley studied art and design at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and at Central Saint Martins in London.
Frawley was the leading Irish theatre designer of her generation
In 1979, she was appointed resident designer of the now defunct Irish Theatre Company. In the following decade, her work was seen at Manchester’s Contact, the Lyric Belfast (where her set for Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock was widely acclaimed in 2014) and widely across the Republic of Ireland, at the Gaiety and Gate theatres in Dublin and on tour with Opera Theatre Company and independent companies Druid, Bickerstaff and B*spoke.
She enjoyed a long relationship with the Abbey Theatre – her stark, snow-covered, other-worldly set for Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats in 1998 remains a defining signature of contemporary Irish stage design.
Her extensive UK work ranged from Trevor Nunn’s National Theatre, London debut in the late 1990s, McGuinness’ Mutabilitie (1997) and Strindberg’s Dance of Death at London’s Tricycle (now Kiln) Theatre in 1998, to Prime Cut’s 2006 bleak, brutal revival of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame (Waterfront Hall, Belfast).
For Tom Murphy’s The Sanctuary Lamp with the company B*spoke in 2010, Frawley miraculously managed to create a sense of height and space in the intimate confines of the main studio space of London’s Arcola Theatre.
She also designed several shows for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, as well as costumes for dance and film, notably Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins in 1996, starring Liam Neeson.
Monica Frawley was born on May 23, 1954 and died on February 14, aged 65. She is survived by her husband, the playwright and poet Vincent Woods.