|Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe Collection|
|Title:||Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe Collection|
|Extent:||12215, paper and photographic material|
The first use of the word 'Taibhdhearc' (the word derives from a combination of 'taibhse' meaning 'spectacle/ghost', and 'dearc', meaning 'behold') in relation to an Irish language theatre may be found in an article in the journal An Stoc in 1918:
Is ionann taidhbhdhearc agus dearcadh ar an rud a thugas é féin un teasbánta nó tá le feiceál os comhair do shúl. Is mó an chreisdint a thugtas duine don rud a fheicfeas sé le n-a shúilí agus is mó an áird a bhíos aige air ná bhíos aige ar an rud a chluineas sé le n-a chluasa ['Taidhbhdhearc Ghaedhealach', An Stoc, Feabhra/Márta 1918, 4].
The following year, in the journal Fáinne an Lae, Tomás Ó Máille (Professor of Irish Language, Philology, and Literature at University College Galway, 1909-38) further outlines the reasons for seeking to establish an Irish-language theatre in Galway.
Tá lucht cabhartha na Gaedhilge sa mbaile seo le tamall ag cur rompú taidhbhdearc Gaedhealach agus cuallacht taidhbhreadóirí a chur ar bun i nGaillimh le drámanna nó taidhbhréimeanna i n-ár dteangaidh dhúthchais a thaidbhsiú agus a fhiorléarú i nGaillimh agus ar fud na hÉireann ...[Fáinne an Lae, Bealtaine 1919, 3].
Other sponsors of the plan included Fr Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Dr Séamus Ó Beirn and Liam Ó Briain (Professor of Romance Languages at UCG, 1917-58). Given the unstable nature of the country in the 1920s, however, this early attempt fell into abeyance. Several of the theatre supporters were on the run and some were imprisoned, including both Ó Briain and Ó Máille.
Galway was viewed as an ideal location for an Irish language theatre, because of its proximity to Ireland's Gaeltacht and because of its concentration of Irish-speaking institutions. The city had a large Irish-speaking population, An Céad Cath (the Irish-speaking battalion of the Irish army stationed at Renmore Barracks), and a large number of Irish language enthusiasts and scholars at University College Galway. In 1927 efforts to found an Irish language theatre in Galway were resumed in earnest. On 3 December a committee of eleven was elected: Dr Séamus Ó Beirn (President); Seán Mac Giollarnáth (Treasurer); Liam Ó Briain and Séamus Luibhéad (Secretaries); and An tAthair Ó hEidhin, Liam Ó Buachalla (Professor of Economics, Commerce and Accountancy at UCG, 1952-64), Síle Ní Chinnéide, Tomás Ó Raghallaigh, Micheál Ó Droighneáin, Domhnaill Ó Riordáin, and Tomás Ó Máille. Liam Ó Briain later commented on this committee in the programme notes for Henri Ghéon's Beatha Iongantach Bhearnáird Óig de Menthon (La Merveilleuse Histoire du Jeune Bernard de Menthon): 'Thugamar le chéile coisde dá réag - b'shin é an chéad dearmad a rinneamar, bhí le foghuim [sic] againn na dhiaidh sin nach féidir obair mar sin a chur chun cinn le coisde mór' [T1/D/37]. The project benefited from the personal interest of the Minister for Finance at the time, Ernest Blythe, who was keen to establish the prestige of the Irish language within the new state. The committee was in contact with Micheál Mac Liammóir in early 1928, and a draft letter from Ó Briain to Mac Liammóir shows them discussing a possible production, as well as considering which actors might be cast in the first show [T1/B/2]. At a local and a practical level the committee began looking for a venue, an artistic director and, most importantly, finances for the venture.
Prior to the establishment of An Taibhdhearc in 1928, state funding for Irish language theatre was administered by the Dublin-based group An Comhar Drámaíochta. Founded in 1924 and operated under the auspices of the Department of Education, An Comhar Drámaíochta supported and subsidised the performance of plays in Irish at the Abbey Theatre. Ernest Blythe agreed to fund the Galway initiative on condition that the committee become a Galway branch of An Comhar Drámaíochta, which would then administer the funding to An Taibhdhearc. In a letter dated 9 February 1928, Blythe states that £600 will be made available but adds: 'Is there any possibility that you could raise a little money locally?' [T1/B/125]. At first the committee in Galway resisted affiliation to the Dublin Comhar but by July the committee had complied with Blythe's request and had access to the funds allocated to it.
In a letter to Ó Briain, dated April 1928, Mac Liammóir confirms his commitment to the scheme, states that he is looking forward to the effort ahead, and encloses a working script. He also asks for a written contract for himself and Hilton Edwards [T1/B/3]. Plans continued with the hiring of the 211-seat Augustinian Hall in Middle Street. Mac Liammóir and Edwards had visited Galway over Easter, in preparation for the production of Diarmuid agus Gráinne and to advise on the alterations necessary to turn the hall into a theatre [Correspondence between Mac Liammóir and Ó Briain, January-May 1928, T1/B/1-8]. In a letter to the Department of Education, Ó Briain notes that the hall could be made available to other Gaelic bodies in conjunction with themselves, but not 'for plays which have been the subject of public controversy or to travelling operatic or dramatic companies'. In the same letter he notes that there is a lot of goodwill towards the project, and that the painter Charles Lamb has offered to paint scenes for them [Letter from Ó Briain to Frank Duffy, Leasrúnaí ar an Roinn Oideachais, June 1928, T1/B/97].
Through the months of July and August 1928 work continued at a frantic pace to renovate the hall and, on 27 August, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe opened its doors with Micheál Mac Liammóir's Diarmuid agus Gráinne. The production ran until 2 September with full houses. In spite of the success of the opening production, a number of problems surfaced. There were differences of opinion over An Taibhdhearc's artistic direction but the most pressing problem centred on the choice of artistic director. Certainly Blythe and Ó Briain were keen to retain Mac Liammóir in that role, but after the company's second production, Prunella (by Housman and Baker) in October of that year, Mac Liammóir followed Hilton Edwards to Dublin to establish the Dublin Gate Theatre Company, promising to come back to An Taibhdhearc in a full-time capacity if the Dublin venture failed. It was a success with the result that in 1929 Mac Liammóir travelled between Galway and Dublin, operating both in the roles of director at An Taibhdhearc and as director/actor at the Gate. In May 1929, Tomás Mac Enrí took over as Secretary to An Coiste (the new title for the committee, which later became the Board of Directors) and work continued apace. Problems arose in October of that year, when Lennox Robinson, artistic director at the Abbey, asked Mac Liammóir to stay in Dublin until 21 October [T1/B/14]. The committee, with one notable exception-Ó Briain-decided to advertise for a producer, and it was only through the intervention of Ernest Blythe that An Coiste was persuaded to retain Mac Liammóir in the position [Ernest Blythe to Seamus Ó Beirn, 16 October 1929, T1/B/125].
Other problems arose, including clashes between the Treasurer of An Coiste, Liam Ó Buachalla and Liam Ó Briain. Ó Briain's close association with the Cumann na nGaedheal party, with Blythe, and with the officials in the Department of Education was a source of annoyance to some committee members, who felt that control of the theatre was being taken out of their hands. This division was also evident in differences between Ó Briain and Ó Beirn concerning the ethos and artistic style of the theatre. Ó Briain was keen to exhibit a commitment to the best in international theatre, believing that modern continental languages could play a role in the revival of Irish, while Ó Beirn was more interested in establishing a popular theatre.
Throughout 1929, and with Mac Liammóir as the company's chief director of plays, a number of original dramas were performed: these included the Irish language classic An Pósadh by Douglas Hyde; Cor in aghaidh an Chaim by Micheál Breathnach and An Foghmar by Tomás Ó Ceallaigh. Plays translated into Irish were also staged, including Éirighe na Gealaighe (The Rising of the Moon) by Lady Gregory, Anton Chekhov's Ag Iarraidh Mná (The Proposal), Moli¬ère's An Dochtúir Bréige (Le Médecin Malgré Lui) and Martinez Sierra's Bean an Ghaiscidhigh (La Mujer del Heroe). Fewer plays were produced in 1930, possibly as a result of Mac Liammóir's reduced involvement and it was clear that replacement producer-directors needed to be found. At the end of 1929, Blythe and Richard Mulcahy (Minister for Defence) arranged for Proinsias Mac Diarmada, a corporal in An Céad Cath, to transfer to Dublin's Cathal Brugha Barracks and learn production skills at the Gate Theatre with Mac Liammóir and Edwards. Mac Diarmada (Frank Dermody) joined An Céad Cath in 1923 and had been involved with Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe from an early stage. He had played the part of Oisín in An Taibhdhearc's first production, Diarmuid agus Gráinne.
At the end of 1930 An Taibhdhearc's large organising committee was reduced from 11 to 3 members. Liam Ó Briain became Chairman and Geraldine Dillon (another founding member) was appointed Treasurer with Seamus Ó Beirn as a director. This more compact committee was formally constituted as a Board of Directors, and it was decided that Prionsias Mac Diarmada should be employed as both Manager and Secretary on a salary of £28. Blythe, writing to Ó Briain on 11 February 1931, expresses his approval of Mac Diarmada's appointment: 'I am satisfied that the arrangement which has now come about is the only one under which Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe has a chance of developing as it ought to develop' [E. Blythe to L. Ó Briain, 11 February 1931, T1/B/141]. Mac Diarmada's first production was J. M. Synge's 1908 play Deirdre of the Sorrows (Deirdre an Bhróin), translated by Ó Briain. Supported by Tommy King in the more practical aspects of organising the theatre, Mac Diarmada brought an energy and enthusiasm to the job that ensured a good selection of actors, and a wide spectrum of productions.
The tensions which dogged the Board of Directors surface again in the period 1933-36. Differences between Ó Briain and Ó Beirn led to the resignation of Ó Beirn from the Board of Directors in 1933. In addition to these difficulties Ó Briain and Mac Diarmada did not always agree. In a letter from Ó Briain to Mac Diarmada, dated 11 April 1934, Ó Briain states that he too is resigning and that he will not be 'a hostile force on [Mac Diarmada's] flank'. He goes on to suggest that other elements in Galway would rally to Mac Diarmada once he (Ó Briain) had left: 'I will be able to attend better to my own business and you will be free from the slave-driving to which apparently, you have been subjected during the past year' [L. Ó Briain to P. Mac Diarmada, 11 April 1934, T1/B/241]. In the event, Mac Diarmada must have ceased complaining about the Board of Directors as Ó Briain stayed on as Chairman until 1938.
In the mid 1930s, like many other institutions, An Taibhdhearc was facing financial difficulties, a situation recognized by the government. An unusual example of inter-party co-operation is revealed in a letter from Ernest Blythe to Liam Ó Briain dated 27 July 1935, when Blythe had asked the Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance, Seán MacEntee, to raise the grant to £2,400 [Blythe to Ó Briain, 27 July 1935, T1/B/141]. In the Senate Chamber MacEntee stated that this was too much, but meeting Blythe in the corridor later he asked that a detailed request be sent to himself and Thomas Derrig (Minister for Education) and that they would see what could be done. In February 1936 the grant was increased, but only to £1,000, with a one-off payment of £200 for maintenance of the building. Captain Seán Ó Conchúir of An Céad Cath, Diarmuid Ó Murchadha, Professor of English at UCG (1934-65), and Séamus Wilmot, Galway Town Clerk, were appointed as Directors.
The productions staged by Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe in this period included translations-both continental European and English language plays-as well as original drama in Irish. Many of the original plays staged by An Taibhdhearc emerged from competitions run by An tOireachtas. Aodh Mac Dhubhain, the nominee from An Taibhdhearc to An tOireachtas as an adjudicator in drama competitions, was ideally placed to source new plays. Mac Dhubhain, a native of Tír an Fhia, on Oileán Garumna in Connemara, was a graduate of UCG and taught in Coláiste Éanna in Galway.
In 1935, An Taibhdhearc participated in the first live broadcast from Galway for the national radio station, Radio Átha Luain (later Radio Éireann). This relationship continued with the company holding concerts and later performing plays for broadcast, including an hour-long broadcast which Mac Diarmada produced from the Barracks Square at Renmore, when 'he utilized the whole battalion including the Army Band, to bring a stark sense of reality to listeners' [Connacht Tribune, 11 July 1978]. In 1935 also, Mac Diarmada's production of Beatha Iongantach Bhearnáird Óig de Menthon by Ghéon, with its lavish costumes and set, made a statement about the new confidence of An Taibhdhearc. Taoiseach of the time, Eamon De Valera attended the opening night, which coincided with the unveiling of the statue of Padraic Ó Conaire in Eyre Square [Connacht Tribune, 11 July 1978]. A special programme to celebrate the first eight years of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe was produced for the occasion.
That 13 plays were produced in 1936, and 18 more in 1937, bears testimony to the industry of the theatre and to Mac Diarmada's tenure as producer-director. When Mac Diarmada was appointed as Director of the Abbey School of Acting in October 1938, he moved to Dublin and eventually succeeded Hugh Hunt as producer at the Abbey. An appreciation written following his death in 1978, noted that: 'During his years in Galway he devoted all his time and unquestionable talents to bringing the Taibhdhearc into national prominence' [Connacht Tribune, 11 July 1978].
Against a background of international conflict An Taibhdhearc continued to thrive. It increased its sourcing of international plays to be translated into Irish by members of the company (many of whom were fluent in modern European languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and German) and An Taibhdhearc continued to stage the work of new and established Irish writers. The effect was to integrate Irish language culture with modern European culture and to emphasize the Irish language's relevance to contemporary issues and culture. With the departure of Mac Diarmada, the role of director was shared by Máire Nic Giolla Mhártin, Tomás Ó hÉaguighthe, and Diarmuid Ó Murchadha. The latter was a driving force. As Professor of English, Ó Murchadha encouraged a group of students to re-establish the Dramatic Society at UCG and many of these students were later active in Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe. These included Christy Townley, Seán MacReamoinn, Lulu Connaughton, and Dónal Taheny.
In January 1939 the Board of Directors approached the writer Walter Macken, asking if he would consider returning from London to Galway to work as a producer. In a letter dated 20 January 1939, Macken indicated that he and his wife (Galwaywoman Peggy Kenny) were interested in returning to Ireland and later that year he took up the position of producer with the company [T1/B/57]. Macken had had prior association with An Taibhdhearc. He acted with the company in 1933, and in the following year he had served as co-author (with Prioinsias Mac Diarmada) of Ceart agus Cúiteamh, a play based on the story of a Galway mayor who had hanged his own son for the murder of a Spaniard. Macken was appointed Manager/Play Director of An Taibhdhearc in May 1939. Beginning with Aintín Searlaí (Charley's Aunt) by Brandon Thomas, Macken was responsible for 97 productions with the company, including 76 plays.
Macken was a man who was extraordinarily industrious: he wrote, translated and directed plays; he acted, designed costumes and sets, provided support and encouragement to the actors around him, and produced a consistently high quality of staging. One of Macken's great strengths, in addition to his work rate, was his ability to write good drama in Irish, and to encourage others to do the same. Macken's An Cailín Aimsire Abú (1943), Oighreacht na Mara (1944), and An Fear ón Spidéal (1945), as well as his pantomime scripts contributed substantially to the theatre's popular appeal.
The artistic direction of the theatre under Macken continued much as it had under Mac Diarmada. In 1939 three plays by Douglas Hyde were staged, along with three by Micheál Breathnach. Indeed the only translated plays staged by Macken in his first year were the perennial Aintín Searlaí (Charley's Aunt), and Síol Comhraic, a translation of Ó Murchadha's Dragon's Teeth. Opening the season in 1940 was a production of Louis D'Alton's An Fear sa Chlóca (The Man in the Cloak). Featuring Walter Macken (Bhaitear Ó Maicin) as producer and actor, D'Alton's play was based on the life of James Clarence Mangan and had originally been performed by the Abbey Theatre. The year saw a number of other productions, including Scáil an Óglaigh, a translation of O'Casey's Shadow of a Gunman and Deireadh an Aistir (Journey's End) by R. C. Sheriff.
The heavy workload took its toll on Macken and, on 17 December 1947, he resigned. The minute book from the Abbey Theatre records that he had: '[grown] tired of the work in An Taibhdhearc involving as it does production, acting and scene painting and secretarial duties' [quoted in Pádraig Ó Siadhail, Stair Dhramaíocht na Gaeilge 1900-1970, Indreabhán, 1993, 113].
Although there is no doubt that the loss of Macken was a blow to the company, it appears that actors and directors rallied. The Dublin director, Ian Priestly Mitchell came to the theatre for six months, then Seán Mac Cathbhaid for a little over a year, after which Priestly Mitchell returned briefly, followed by Ria Mooney of the Abbey. As well as translations of continental European plays, the productions of this period included British detective plays by authors such as Agatha Christie and G.K. Chesterton and translations of popular Abbey plays. Ria Mooney's production of Fir Rí na hAoine (The King of Friday's Men) by M. J. Molloy (translated by Aodh Mac Dhubháin) was a particular success. A reviewer remarked that 'the presentation of a play which depends for its success on the merit of one player demands courage when undertaken by any theatre group', and went on to acknowledge that Sean Ó Coinceanain 'put a grand spirit into his performance when he went with sheer delight into the faction fight, in the tender scene in the second act and in the near melodrama of the third act'. Overall, the production was described as 'an enjoyable experience' [Connacht Tribune, 17 December 1949].
The 1950 staging of San Siobhán (an Irish language version of George Bernard Shaw's St Joan) was a landmark event. Translated by Siobhan McKenna and directed by Ian Priestly Mitchell and Siobhan McKenna, it featured McKenna playing San Siobhán (reputedly her favourite part). The Bishop of Galway, Dr Browne, declined an invitation to attend the play. 'Much as his Lordship would like to honour the President of Ireland, he does not think that attendance at a Shaw play would be a suitable means or occasion for one in his position' [Michael Spelman, Secretary to the Bishop of Galway, to M. Nic Alisdair, 9 Dec 1950, T1/B/1372]. However, President Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh attended the opening night in Galway and the show was a great success, drawing large audiences and critical acclaim. The play travelled to Dublin the following January at the invitation of Louis Elliman of the Abbey Theatre. The move required the help of Army trucks from Renmore Barracks after a rail strike and bad weather nearly forced a cancellation of the run. Reviewers focussed on Siobhán McKenna's powerful performance: ' we have an actress capable of maintaining heavy emotional roles. That she has done this in an Irish play of her own translation adds piquancy to her triumph. She has given an effective answer to those who complained of the dullness of recent Irish drama' [Evening Mail, 12 January 1951, quoted in Micheál Ó hAodha, Siobhán, A Memoir of an Actress (Dingle, 1994) 42]. Another reviewer commented on McKenna's 'performance of piercing sincerity, which rose to an almost mystical exaltation in her exit speech after the Coronation and in the crucial speech of the trial' and concluded that she was 'potentially the best actress on the Irish stage' [Irish Times, 15 January 1951]. Subsequently, the play was brought to Belfast, where the cast 'did not feel inclined to stand for the British National Anthem'; a compromise was reached, allowing the players to stand with heads bowed [Connacht Sentinel, 18 November 1986]. San Siobhán is remembered as one of An Taibhdhearc's greatest productions.
In 1950 (and again in 1951) Johnny Horan, who had acted with An Taibhdhearc for many years, produced Kaufmann and Hart's An Fear a Tháinic chun Dinnéar (The Man Who Came to Dinner). The comedy-drama was well received and it was noted locally that the leading role was taken by an American university student, Seamus Facner. It was the first time, apparently, that an American had acted in a Taibhdhearc production [Connacht Tribune (City Edition) 11 November 1950, 4]. In 1952 Horan took over the duties of producer/director fulltime.
In 1953 Micheál Mac Liammóir returned to direct Diarmuid agus Gráinne, to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the theatre. Padraig Ó Cearuill, Treasa Nic Oirealla and Micheál Mac Giolla Choille took the three leading roles and Hilton Edwards prepared the stage and special lighting effects. An article in the Connacht Tribune described the evening: 'When the final curtain rang down the applause of the packed attendance expressed appreciation of a brilliant production and acknowledgement of twenty-five glorious years of Gaelic drama'. Among the audience were many men and women associated with the original production, including Ernest Blythe, who as Minister for Finance, had issued the grant that enabled the founding of An Taibhdhearc. The play's main curtain, 'in Gaelic designs over a black background', which had been designed and painted by Mac Liammóir himself, had been used in the first production, and Mac Liammóir recalled that Padraig Ó Conaire had watched him while he worked on it. Congratulating the actors after the performance, Mac Liammóir said that it was an honour and privilege to work with the players of An Taibhdhearc [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 5 September 1953, 5].
In 1955 Horan resigned as producer. Michael Garvey took over for a six-month period, directing Clog in Oíche Gaoithe by L.E. Brudair, Bás gan Éagmais (Arsenic and Old Lace) by Joseph Kesselring, and Uacht Uncail Sam by 'Mac Éadaigh'. In October 1956 Traolach Ó hAonghusa was appointed producer, a post he was to hold for over twelve years.
In the period from 1956 to 1978 Ireland underwent rapid modernisation, abandoning policies of economic autarky and actively encouraging inward capital investment, with a new emphasis on exports. Culturally there was an increased engagement with works that demonstrated Ireland's integration within a global capitalist system. Plays often dealt with the clash of the traditional with the modern, or negotiated the place of indigenous local culture within a broader international framework. An Taibhdhearc responded by adapting the company's repertoire to extend and broaden its audience base. Pantomimes, operas, musicals, and variety shows were produced, and the first Irish language productions of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Brendan Behan's The Hostage.
Traolach Ó hAonghusa began his tenure at An Taibhdhearc in October 1956, with a production of An Silín Gort (The Cherry Orchard) by Anton Chekhov, translated by Maighréad Nic Maicin. Although set in late nineteenth century Russia, a reviewer pointed out that 'it is as applicable to some of today's problems as when first written', and Ó hAonghusa's 'capable direction' was noted as auguring well for the future. The new director was 'conducting a vigorous campaign in search of new talent', attempting to attract a new generation of actors to An Taibhdhearc and, in continued efforts to attract audiences, 'high-fidelity record equipment' was installed in the theatre and a series of monthly gramophone recitals was planned [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 20 October 1956, 6]. Original Irish language plays were also staged at this time, as well as Irish language translations of Irish drama in English by dramatists such as John B. Keane, Walter Macken and Sean O'Casey. Ó hAonghusa was an accomplished and prolific director, with such productions as Dialann Anne Frank (Diary of Anne Frank), Harvey, and Mo Trúir Aingeal (My Three Angels). Eoghan Ó Tuairisc's D'réir na Ruíbricí and Lá Fhéile Michil were staged in 1961 and 1963 respectively, and Christóir Ó Floinn's Cóta Ban Chríost was performed in 1968. Coiril Ó Mathúna, Risteard Ó Broin, and Seán and Máire Stafford were also important contributors in this period, both in terms of staging pantomimes for the company, as well as providing translations of plays into Irish. Coiril Ó Mathúna was theatre manager and looked after matters such as funding, alterations to the building, and administration. Seán Ó Carra translated a number of plays including An Fhianaise a Thabharfas mé (The Evidence that I shall Give) by Robert Mac Hugh, as well as Bliain an tSiúlóra (The Year of the Hiker) and 's iomaí Oig fhear d'imigh (Many Young Men of Twenty) by John B. Keane. Another John B. Keane play, An Pháirc (The Field), one of Ó hAonghusa's last productions, was staged in 1968 with Ciarán Ó Maoldúin playing the part of Bull McCabe. Despite occasional conflict with the Board of Directors, Ó hAonghusa's thirteen years at An Taibhdhearc were highly productive; in all, Ó hAonghusa directed over fifty plays before he left in 1969.
An Taibhdhearc also attracted a number of guest directors in this period. In 1968 Risteard Ó Broin directed Árus Mhungo, an Irish language version of the Walter Macken play Mungo's Mansion. Frank A. Bailey directed a production of An Triail by Mairéad Ní Ghráda at Dublin's Peacock Theatre in March 1968 as well as An Spuaic Soláis (The Honey Spike) by Bryan Mc Mahon in 1970, and Maggie Mór (Big Maggie) by John B. Keane, in 1971. Another guest director, Alan Simpson (former director of the Pike Theatre in Dublin) produced Brendan Behan's An Giall (The Hostage) in 1970. The programme for An Giall drew attention to the play's international relevance: 'In Belfast and Derry, in Saigon and Jerusalem, Johannesburg and Guatemala, the innocent and the young are made to pay with sufferings and their lives for the political pride of their elders' [Programme notes, T1/D/249]. Coiril Ó Mathúna, Máire Stafford and Micheál Mac Giolla Gheallaigh took the leading roles. A newspaper article announcing the play warns that 'the brothel setting and the outrageous use of prostitutes and homosexuals are not to be taken literally, but are a modernisation of O'Casey's device of using low life to illustrate external truths' [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 24 April 1970, 3]. However, a letter in the next edition of the Connacht Tribune, described the play as 'the first essay of obscenity in Galway' and remarked that this 'sophistication brought from the great city lights by Mr Alan Simpson' 'is rather corrupting to all concerned' [Letter to the Editor from Rev. James W. Kelly, Headford, Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 8 May 1970, 5]. A subsequent reply from Maire Stafford defended the play as 'bawdy, but not obscene' [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 15 May 1970, 3]. Simpson's association with An Taibhdhearc continued the following year when he directed an acclaimed version of Ag Fanacht le Godot (Waiting for Godot) by Samuel Beckett. Simpson had been the first to stage the original English version of the play at the Pike in 1955. The translation into Irish was done by Liam Ó Briain, who worked on the French text, and by Sean Ó Carra, who used the author's own English version. Ag Fanacht le Godot was performed in Galway and in the Peacock Theatre in Dublin; the cast included Tomás Ó Cionnaith (Estragon), Coiril Ó Mathúna (Vladimir), Micheál Ó hAinnín (Lucky) and Risteárd Ó Broin (Pozzo). The capacity audience on the opening night gave the play an enthusiastic reception, and the chairman, Padraig Ó Durcain, took the opportunity to remind the audience that the actors were not professionals, 'ach daoine a tá ag saothrú a slí beatha i rith an lae agus ag cleachtadh san oíche'. He also pointed out that the programme should make it apparent that the Taibhdhearc wasn't idle between productions: '[bíonn] imeachtaí Gaeilge ar siúl anseo beagnach seasta' [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 3 December 1971, 4].
Other directors who were members of the company were Seán Stafford, Risteard Ó Broin, T. Ó Murchadha, P. Ó Baoill (who staged Brian Friel's Scéim Mundy (The Mundy Scheme) in 1972) and a young Micheál Ó Maolallaí (Mick Lally), who directed Seán Ó Carra's translation of Antigone by Jean Anouilh. Proinsias Mac Diarmada returned with Moll by John B. Keane in 1972 and Dlí na Feilme by Micheál Ó hAodha the following year, as well as Synge's Buachaill Baire an Domhain Thiar (The Playboy of the Western World). In 1974 Seán Stafford directed Criostóir Ó Floinn's Mise Raifteirí an File, a technically demanding play, that wove drama and music together as a series of flashbacks of the poet's life. 'The play could have been drab and flat were it not for the variation of lighting, magnificent sets and realistic effects- ere we have the necessary expertise' [The Galway Advertiser, 28 Feb 1974]. Some of the people involved with Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe at this time went on to play vital roles in the formation of other artistic initiatives in Galway, including the Druid Theatre Company, MACNAS and the Galway Arts Festival.
The physical space of the theatre changed in the seventies. In 1973 An Taibhsín was purchased as a rehearsal space and was also used for Dick Byrne's production of Nanno in 1973 with Mick Lally and Colette Shaughnessy. This space was sold in 1977 to help fund the permanent acquisition of the theatre, which was bought from An Taibhdhearc's former landlords, the Augustinians. The last production in the 'old' theatre was An Taibhdhearc's first attempt at opera: Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutti, translated by Máire Stafford and produced by Seán Stafford, with Pádraig Ó hÉanaí as musical director. The show was 'a tribute to everyone involved in its production' and even 'Italians in the audience were very, very pleased'! The principals included 'people famed in other spheres of life but unknown until now as stage performers', including a medical surgeon, Bernard Murphy, and a priest, Fr Tomás Shannon. [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 14 October 1977, 16]. When the opera closed, the builders moved in; two subsequent productions, The Horrid Popish Plot directed by Pádraig Ó hÉanaí and the annual pantomime in January 1978, were staged in alternative venues while the refurbishment work was being completed.
This period sees an unusually high number of festive occasions and anniversary celebrations. The reconstructed Taibhdhearc had terraced seating for two hundred, new dressing rooms, a scene dock and workshop, new toilets, an enlarged foyer and extra storage space under the main auditorium [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 20 March 1978]. The refurbished theatre was opened on St Patrick's Day 1978 by President Hillery, who attended the opening production of the new season, the premiere of Criostóir Ó Floinn's Cluichí Cleamhnas.
This production was swiftly followed by a touring production of Cosi Fan Tutti in the Abbey Theatre and An Strainséar Dubh (The Black Stranger) by Gerard Healy, translated by Mairtín Ó Corrbuí and directed by Áine Ní Dhrisceoil. In October, An Taibhdhearc's golden jubilee was celebrated with a musical version of Diarmuid agus Gráinne, featuring Treasa Ní Thiarnáin and Micheál Ó hAinnín. Music for the production was composed by Micheal Ó hEidhin. In a tribute to the late Micheal Mac Liammóir, who was to have been the main guest of honour at the celebrations, Mr Molloy, Minister for Defence, said that Mac Liammóir would have been justly proud of An Taibhdhearc (Irish Times, 18 March 1978, 16). Among the many former actors who attended the opening night were Siobhán McKenna and Máire Ní Scolaí, who had played Gráinne in the first production in 1928 [Connacht Tribune (City Edition), 13 October 1978].
1979 began with the traditional pantomime, followed in April by Sighle Ní Chonaill's production of Dialann Anne Frank (Diary of Anne Frank). Fears of unsustainable losses forced the cancellation of the music show, Seoda and a number of personnel changes also occurred at this time. Christy Townley, who had acted as Chair of the Board of Directors for fifteen years, retired, and Seán Stafford was appointed to that position. Seán Mac Íomhair joined the Board as the actors' representative, with Pádraig Ó hÉanaí replacing Seán Stafford as artistic director. Their dramatic work continued with the staging of Strauss's Die Fledermaus. December of that year saw another offering from Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, Fornocht do Chonoic, which had won An tOireachtas's Pearse Commemoration Prize. Ó Tuairisc's play sought to make Pearse's life relevant to the 1970s. The story deals with a disillusioned artist who is commissioned to create a monument to Pearse and who must reconcile his visions of a man who wrote childlike stories and poetry, with the man who stirred a country to revolution.
The following year began with the pantomime, Alleliú Aleaidín by Máire Stafford. Seán Ó Briain of RTÉ was guest producer for Mícheál Mac Cártaigh's Mac Scaidín is an Pota Draíochta in April, with another production, An Leon sa Gheimhreadh (The Lion in Winter) staged towards the end of the year. Music lovers as well as Irish language enthusiasts attended An Taibhdhearc's third operatic production, Donizetti's tragic opera Lucia Di Lammermoor, and a reviewer noted that it was 'amazing how Galway can produce enough singers to qualify to stage grand opera' [Tuam Herald, 11 October 1980].
Productions in 1981 included Dá by Hugh Leonard, the musicals Críonlobhadh (Dry-Rot) and Annie, as well as the return of traditional music shows with Geantraí. The following year Tris Nic Ghiollarnáth and Pádraig Boran produced Fáilte, a traditional music show, which was to become an annual event. Other productions included Neil Simon's Prisoner of Second Avenue, translated as Priosúnach Dara Aibhinne by Seán Ó Briain, Óinseacha by Pádriag Ó Giollagáin, Uaisle (Aristocrats) by Brian Friel and An Doras Dúnta (The Closed Door) by Graham Reid. Puccini's La Bohème, staged in December, was lent a local touch, being set in Galway city of the 1980s rather than 1830s Paris. Scenes were altered so that 'A Garret' became 'the Digs', 'the Latin Quarter' became 'the Claddagh', and the 'Barrière d'Enfer', 'the gates of the University' [Programme notes, T1/D/337].
An Taibhdhearc participated in the celebration of Galway's Quincentennial year, 1984. Although attendances for a fine production of Corr nó Cliste were poor, as evidenced by a letter in the Connacht Sentinel [27 March 1984], other productions were well attended and the year was a triumphant one for the theatre. In May, Ó Flaharta's Imeachtaí na Saoirse, which provided a critique of modern rural society, was described as exciting and powerful. A reviewer remarked that: 'for Galway and the West this is an important piece of theatre'. He continued, 'Is Imeachtaí na Saoirse a sign that the winds of change are blowing through the Irish language theatre and the Taibhdhearc in particular? One hopes so' [Galway Advertiser, May 1984]. Later the same year, An Taibhdhearc brought its 'special sort of opera' to Galway again, with La Traviata, performed with a 'humble intimacy far removed from the spectacular displays usually associated with what is called 'classic opera.'' This reviewer noted that, aside from the issue of the smaller scale of venue and production: 'An Taibhdhearc's approach favours the intimacies of the text rather than grandiose chest beating, and it is an approach which strikes this confessed layman as a good, fresh one'. The same reviewer suggested that the 'inherent musicality of the language' contributed to the success of the operatic form in Irish [Brendan Duffy, Galway Advertiser, October 14-21 1984]. The following year, 1985, Christy Townley was awarded a bust of Raftery in a special ceremony to mark his 50 years of involvement with An Taibhdhearc [Connacht Sentinel, 14 May 1985].
A bilingual revue, Taibhdhearc a Ga Ga, in 1986, presented a humorous look at contemporary politics and current affairs, featuring the 'unlikely combination of Dessie O'Malley, Knock Airport, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan' [Galway Advertiser, 18 January 1986]. It was described as embodying 'all the things you've wanted to say for years but hadn't the neck to do so in public' [Programme notes, T1/D/359].
As part of An Taibhdhearc's sixtieth anniversary celebrations in 1988, An Spailpín Fánach, described as a 'well-researched, bilingual account of Pádraic Ó Conaire's life', was commissioned from Criostóir Ó Floinn. The programme reproduced the cast list from An Taibhdhearc's first production, Diarmuid agus Gráinne, along with Mac Liammóir's notes for the play, in which he set out his aspirations and hopes for the new venture in Irish language theatre [Programme notes, T1/D/366]. In Máirtín Mac Donnchadha's review of the new play, he notes that Diarmuid Mac an Adhastair played the part of Ó Conaire and that 'his close resemblance to Seán Phádraic in stature and appearance was a nice final touch to what proved to be a convincing performance on his part'. Ó Donnchadha believed the occasion to be a turning point for An Taibhdhearc: 'Sixty years on, with a refurbished building, a new administrator and a new play from Criostóir Ó Floinn, commissioned by An Taibhdhearc, we face into a new era of Irish language theatre in Galway' [Connacht Sentinel, 15 November 1988].
This period sees a re-statement and reinvigoration of the original aims of An Taibhdhearc: to promote the writing and performance of Irish language drama in Ireland and to introduce a diversity in programming. 1990 began with the musical event Seoda ón Opera. This is a medley of operatic and musical numbers from shows staged previously by An Taibhdhearc, including Aida, La Traviata, The Merry Widow, The Mikado and Madame Butterfly. Three original plays were staged during the year: Ortha na Seirce by Johnny Chóil Mhaidhc, Corp Eoghan Uí Shúilleabháin by Seán Ó Tuama, and Is Tú mo Mhac by Siobhán Ní Shúilleabháin. The year closed with Magus na Lollipop, a children's show, written by Michael Mullen.
Trevor O'Clochartaigh took up the position of Administrator at An Taibhdhearc towards the end of 1991. Born in Huddersfield, O'Clochartaigh began learning Irish at the age of thirteen when his family returned to Carna in Connemara. At University College Galway, he became involved with Dramsoc and Cumann Drámaíochta, and was a founder of Na Fánaithe, an Irish language theatre group; by the time of his appointment, he had accrued experience in theatrical administration, acting, directing and teaching. One of his main tasks as administrator was the promotion of An Taibhdhearc as 'the National Theatre for Irish language' which involved increasing the numbers of Irish language productions and making the theatre available to a wide variety of Irish language dramatic groups. The junior branch of An Taibhdhearc, Aisteoirí Óga na Taibhdhearca, was one of the groups which was fostered as part of this initiative and developed greatly during this time.
In February 1992, the Tennessee Williams play, The Rose Tattoo (which in 1957 had caused controversy and resulted in the arrest of its producer Alan Simpson) appeared in the Taibhdhearc, described as 'a boisterous and emotionally fired piece' [Programme notes, T1/D/379]. Prospective audiences were reminded of the 'rúille-búille' that had greeted the play's performance in Dublin, thirty years previously (City Tribune, 31 January 1992: 5). Later that year, Éamon Draper who, in the mid 1970s had produced three plays including Tom Murphy's Gorta (Famine), translated by Mick Lally, returned to direct Fomhar Fiáin (Wild Harvest), a Ken Bourke play. Some of the cast had never been on stage before but the director was undaunted. Draper spoke of his love for Galway, where English and Irish were spoken in the streets, and the 'classlessness' of the city's attention to the arts [City Tribune, 10 October 1992, 7].
The company's version of Tom Murphy's A Whistle in the Dark (Scread an Óige san Uaigneas) won critical acclaim in May 1993. Expressing surprise that a Tom Murphy play 'set in England and including an English character among the cast could be so well translated into Irish', a reviewer noted that the presentation of this intense and violent play had such power that she was 'hooked' by the end of the first act [Bernie Ní Fhlatharta, City Tribune, 14 May 1993, 11]. The following year, 'the show went on' despite an early morning blaze in the theatre during a week-long production of two Synge plays: Uaigneas an Ghleanna (In the Shadow of the Glen) and Chun an Farraige Síos (Riders to the Sea). Although much of the set and backstage area had been destroyed, it had been rebuilt by that evening's performance. Fortunately the curtains, designed and handpainted by Mícheál Mac Liammóir, were not damaged. In a review titled 'Authentic aroma at 'synged' Taibhdhearc', Pádraic Ó Máille remarked: 'The smell of smoke that permeated the entire theatre was as authentic as one is ever likely to smell in any cottage that Synge was endeavouring to represent' [City Tribune, 20 May 1994, 6].
Aistriúchán (Translations) by Brian Friel, was itself translated into Irish by Breandán Ó Doibhlin for Seán Ó Tárpaigh's first production as An Taibhdhearc's Artistic Director, in November 1995. The choice of this play was quite deliberate, raising as it does many questions about smaller cultures in a global context, some of which apply specifically to the Irish language and to cultural initiatives such as An Taibhdhearc in particular. In the programme notes, the director, describes how the all-Irish production 'presents very real, but also very interesting problems. Translated into Irish Brian Friel's play has a very different resonance to that of the original; hearing people speaking English with Irish accents is commonplace, but hearing English soldiers speaking Irish with an English accent is quite a challenge not only to the production but to the audience' (Programme notes, T1/D/400).
The following year, 1996, a similar theme, that of the problem of communication in the modern world, was addressed in Haiku. The production was a result of collaboration between an American playwright (Katherine Snodgrass), a Japanese director (Chiyomi Yamashita) and an Irish translator (poet, Gabriel Rosenstock). The play deals with a family coping with autism, and evoked strong emotions from the audience due both to the subject matter and the strong performances from the cast. According to a reviewer, 'the simple white set' was 'a sharp contrast to the complexities of the subject matter of the theatre's newest production' [Bernie Ni Fhlatharta, City Tribune, 15 November 1996,15].
As An Taibhdhearc prepared to celebrate seventy years of Irish language theatre in 1998, some critics raised questions regarding its reputation and its future course. The artistic climate, not least in theatrical performance, in Galway had been undergoing fundamental change. The increasing exposure of Galway audiences to fully professional and challenging theatrical productions in English was facilitated by the Galway Arts Festival programme and by the achievements of the Druid Theatre Company. The arrival of Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4) with its Irish-speaking serial drama, gave new opportunities to the Irish-speaking theatrical community and raised expectations of the artistic standards to which An Taibhdhearc should aspire. Some critics suggested that An Taibhdhearc was not evolving with the times, in the way that other theatre companies were: that, perhaps, it was trying to do too much with the resources at its disposal.
As this healthy debate on standards and the challenge of the future was being conducted, An Taibhdhearc celebrated seventy years with a production of Verdi's Macbeth in October 1998. It was only the third time that the opera had been performed in Ireland since its first production in Italy in 1847, and its first performance in the Irish language. Fifty Galway people were involved in the elaborate production, with Tommy Joyce as musical director and Micheál Ó hÁinnín in the role of Macbeth, proudly carrying the sword used by Siobhán McKenna in San Siobhán [City Tribune, 30 October 1998, 11].
From 1999 An Taibhdhearc has systematically faced the questions posed by the critics. A new artistic policy was endorsed by its Board in 1999, essentially to stage fewer productions but to resource each production to a fully professional level. The appointment in 2000 of Darach Mac Con Iomaire as Artistic Director saw this new policy being implemented in a succession of productions that have received high critical acclaim. An Taibhdhearc continues to produce challenging contemporary plays. In July 2001, Séamus Ó Scolaí's translation of Vincent Woods's At the Black Pig's Dyke, Ag Claí na Muice Duibhe, was acclaimed as 'a tour de force' by reviewer Brendán Delap. In the Irish Times he describes the play as 'a complex statement about violence, divided loyalties and sectarian hatred. But it is people, not issues that matter most in this play and its characters are living embodiments of the twisted logic of the Troubles'. He goes on to note that the cast reads like a 'who's who of Irish language drama' [Irish Times, 19 July 2001, 12]. Maelíosa Stafford, the director, had premiered the English language play in the Druid Theatre ten years earlier, when it had a huge impact on audiences. He stressed that this new translation was not simply 'an Irish language version of the original' but a completely new production (City Tribune, 13 July 2001: 9). With the integration of ancient traditions such as mumming, songs, rhymes, dances and rituals into the narrative, the play was wonderfully visual and a reviewer, commenting on this 'gripping and absorbing piece of theatre', noted that non Gaelgoirí would be able to understand what was happening, as the narrative rose above language [J. Murphy, City Tribune, 20 July 2001, 9].
The following year Macdara Ó Fatharta rose to the challenge of adapting Ó Cadhain's Cré na Cille for the stage. Describing it as 'the jewel in the crown of the Irish language literary canon', but with 'linguistic subversion' which 'renders all but impossible task of staging this complex novel', Délap applauds the performances of the strong cast, and notes that: 'This is a richly rewarding and deeply considered adaptation of a modern masterpiece' [Irish Times 28 March 2002, 2]. Another reviewer would have given it numerous 'Oscars' and warned: 'Beidh tú ag gáire go hard ag éisteacht leis na mairbh ag scilleadh ar a chéile agus ag breathnú ar nádúr an daonna' [City Tribune, 29 March 2002, 5A]. In Foinse the production was also much praised, and it was remarked that it was unusual to see people laughing and taking so much pleasure from 'a cultural icon' [S.T. Ó Gairbhí, Foinse, 31 Márta 2002, 30].
Aware of the diversity within the Irish language community, An Taibhdhearc continues to produce pantomimes and children's theatre for younger audiences. Plays that are part of the Leaving Certificate syllabus have been staged for the benefit of students (and teachers) who would otherwise study the texts in the classroom and never have the benefit of seeing the plays performed. In 2002, for example, Caitlín Maude and Michael Hartnett's An Lasair Choille, and Dara Ó Conaola's Amuigh Liom Féin were well-received. Although a large part of the audience may have attended for educational purposes, 'bhí draíocht na hamharc-lannaíochta á dtionlacan abhaile'. The reviewer ends: 'Más drámaíocht ar son na cúise a bhí anseo ní hamháin go ndein sé an chúis ach bhaineamar sult as' [R. Ní Ghairbhí, Foinse, 27 Eanair 2002].
|Immediate Source of Acquisition or Transfer|
Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe
|CONTENT AND STRUCTURE|
|Scope and Content|
This collection was acquired for the Library in 1990 by Mr Christy Townley, former Librarian of the James Hardiman Library, who had served for many years on the Board of Directors of the theatre. As well as material from the theatre itself, Mr. Townley provided copies of programmes and photographs from his own collection to allow as full a
|System of arrangement|
As the material was arranged into date order in most instances, that order has been maintained in the collection. Each record series has been given a separate letter, A for minute books, B for correspondence, C for financial material, D for programmes, E for photographs, F for posters and H for scripts. There was no coherent order in relation to the correspondence, and this was arranged by function and correspondent, and then by date.
|CONDITIONS OF ACCESS AND USE AREA|
|Conditions governing access|
Permission for reproduction of material for any media must be sought.
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