tom Mur­phy, 83, ac­claimed ir­ish play­wright

The Republican Herald - - OBITUARIES - by neil GenZlinGer THE NEW YORK TIMES

Tom Mur­phy, an in­flu­en­tial Ir­ish play­wright known for dark tales told with a rus­tic mu­si­cal­ity, died on Tues­day in Dublin. He was 83.

His wife, ac­tress Jane Bren­nan, said the cause was heart fail­ure.

Mur­phy wrote dozens of plays across a half-cen­tury. Garry Hynes, artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Druid The­ater Com­pany, which has pro­duced many of those plays, said he ranks with Brian Friel as one of Ire­land’s great­est con­tem­po­rary play­wrights, though he was not as well known in­ter­na­tion­ally, partly be­cause he ven­tured into more dif­fi­cult emo­tional ter­rain.

“Some of Brian’s plays were eas­ier, I think, for nonIr­ish au­di­ences to ac­cess,” Hynes said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “In Tom’s case, he was un­flinch­ing in his rage about the way things were. He wrote with a very raw essence. He didn’t spare him­self or his char­ac­ters.”

As Mur­phy him­self put it in 2001 in an in­ter­view with The New York Times: “What gets me down gets me started. It’s a brood­ing thing.”

Among those post­ing trib­utes to Mur­phy was the pres­i­dent of Ire­land, Michael D. Hig­gins. “We have had no greater use of lan­guage for the stage than in the body of work pro­duced by Tom Mur­phy,” Hig­gins said in a state­ment.

Thomas Bernard Patrick Mur­phy was born on Feb. 23, 1935, in Tuam, County Gal­way, the youngest of 10 chil­dren. His fa­ther, Jack, was a car­pen­ter, and his mother, Win­nifred (Shaugh­nessy) Mur­phy, was a home­maker.

Mur­phy started writ­ing for a lo­cal am­a­teur the­ater group while work­ing in the town’s sugar fac­tory. He stud­ied met­al­work­ing at a tech­ni­cal col­lege and taught that sub­ject for a time, but strug­gled with an in­ter­nal dis­trac­tion.

“I found that this thing I had about writ­ing in­ter­fered with that,” he said in a 1963 in­ter­view, ex­plain­ing why he had left teach­ing and re­lo­cated to Lon­don.

Not just any kind of writ­ing would do, though.

“I felt I could never write prose,” he told Bomb Mag­a­zine in 2012. “I knew that I couldn’t go into film be­cause it was too re­mote. But with plays, I didn’t have to know gram­mar or syn­tax or any rules to write the way that peo­ple spoke.”

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