Can we treat Shakespeare as one of our own? Getting the dirt on DruidShakespeare

By Peter Crawley for The Irish Times, 9 May 2015

It gets everywhere, this soft earth covering the floor of the stage. Throughout rehearsals it has been kicked across the Mick Lally Theatre’s small auditorium in little clumps, crept under fingernails in stubborn crescents and burrowed “into crevices that I won’t mention”, according to one of the cast, who shall remain shameless.

To Druid’s loyal audience, though, it is an oddly reassuring surface, familiar from the theatre company’s heroic cycle of Tom Murphy plays and its JM Synge cycle – described, by his contemporary Joseph Holloway, as a “strange mixture of lyric and dirt”.

Here it has another resonance. “It was decided that we would play on a surface that we are used to and that we are connected to – a surface that made sense to us,” says Garry Hynes, Druid’s artistic director. Francis O’Connor, the designer, adds, “It was about being able to bring an Irish terrain with us on tour, no matter where we went – essentially, being able to play on an Irish landscape on any stage.”

It’s an honest, modest flooring – Druid buys it in bags from a local garden centre. But, like the new DruidShakespeare project, it has a grander purpose: to bring Shakespeare’s history plays unfussily on to home turf: this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Ireland.

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