tom Murphy, 83, acclaimed irish playwright
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.”