Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Druid Hits a Century

It took Druid theatre a mere seventeen years to make it to a century of productions. In the mid 1970’s when Druid was first established, it would go on to set a precedent for producing and promoting the work on new Irish writers and playwrights as well as producing relevant revivals of classic Irish and international works.
Straw mask as worn in the play
The piece chosen to be Druid’s 100th production in October of 1992 was At the Black Pig’s Dyke and was written by Vincent Woods. The play is a dark, terse and engaging piece that traces the experiences of a life marked by violence and with questions of identity along Ireland’s border between north and south.
'The Black Pig’s Dyke' is a fortified series of divisions and ramparts along the boundary of the historic province of Ulster in old Gaelic society. The people who inhabited this area are known as ‘mummers’ and are presented here at straw-masked tribal warriors. The play is teaming with folklore and stories native to the border region. These ‘mummars’ wander from village to town and entertain those who they meet with local songs and music, all the while dancing and providing a visual spectacle dressed in their towering straw masks, boots and straw skirts dotted with poppies – the first instance of blood imagery and lust for violence.
Original play poster
Quickly the play descends into fear and violence. The wedded union of a catholic girl to a Protestant man sets in motion the cyclical motion of revenge and killing. The sectarianism is a direct and unashamed commentary on the conflict and killing experienced by those in the North. The fact much of this story is based on inherited folklore highlights the sad connection that for many in the North and indeed the South, their inherited legacy was that of fear, distrust and killing. The fact the play is set at ‘the Black Pig’s Dyke’ along the border between north and south sets the play in a void between the sectarianism and where identity and connection with the self as a citizen is blurred.
This 100th production by Druid received headline reviews in national and regional press in the North and South and includes “A remarkable mix of passion and despair”, “The unmasking of brutal violence in stunning new play” and with comments such as “Masked men, eyes glittering fantastically through slitted hoods immediately herald horror. We had and have on our North/South border such disguised murdering avengers who hunt their prey under the cover of darkness”
The play is a supremely important commentary in Irish theatre on the despair, passion, killing and loss suffered for generations in Ireland’s North and its border regions. The play was produced at Druid Lane theatre, Galway and toured nationally to co, Galway, Armagh, Derry, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Antrim (Belfast) Meath, Mayo, Tipperary Clare, Offaly, Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Waterford and Kilkenny.
The Druid theatre archive contains original documents from the production including programmes, posters, photographs, sketches of costumes and masks, tour handbook for cast members and extensive press file of reviews, cuttings, articles and commentary.

For more information on this production and tour by Druid click here

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