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Tom Murphy (born 1935) is an Irish dramatist who has worked closely with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and with Druid Theatre, Galway. He was born in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland. His first successful play, A Whistle In the Dark was performed at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London in 1961 and caused considerable controversy both there and in Dublin when it was later given its Irish premiere at the Abbey having initially been rejected by its artistic director.


Career and Style

Subsequent plays include the historical epic Famine (1968) which deals with the Irish Potato Famine of 1848, the anti-clerical The Sanctuary Lamp (1975), The Gigli Concert (1983) and for many his masterpiece, the lyrical Bailegangaire and the bar-room comedy Conversations on a Homecoming (both 1985) .

His work is characterised by a constant experimentation in form and content from the apparently naturalistic A Whistle In the Dark to the surreal The Morning After Optimism and the spectacularly verbal The Gigli Concert. Recurring themes include the search for redemption and hope in a world apparently deserted by God and filled with suffering. Although steeped in the culture and mythology of Ireland, Murphy's work does not trade on familiar clichés of Irish identity, dealing instead with Dostoyevskian themes of violence, nihilism and despair while never losing sight of the presence of laughter, humour and the possibilities of love and transcendence.

Recent Honours

Considered by many to be Ireland's greatest living playwright (a title also often given to Brian Friel), Tom Murphy was honoured by the Abbey Theatre in 2001 by a retrospective season of six of his plays. Younger playwrights whose work shows an indebtedness to him include Conor McPherson, Martin McDonagh and Gary Mitchell. His latest plays include The Wake (1997), The House (2000) and The Alice Trilogy, which premiered in 2005 at the Royal Court Theatre in London with Juliet Stevenson in the eponymous role. In 2006 Murphy directed the Irish premiere of the same play at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin with Jane Brennan in the lead role. In 2009, his play, "The Last Days of a Reluctant Tyrant" premiered at the Abbey Theatre.

He has written one novel, The Seduction Of Morality (1994). He currently lives in Dublin.


  • On The Outside (1959)
  • A Whistle In the Dark (1961)
  • Famine (1968)
  • The Orphans (1968)
  • A Crucial Week In The Life Of A Grocer's Assistant (1969)
  • The Morning After Optimism (1971)
  • The White House (1971)
  • On The Inside (1974)
  • The Vicar Of Wakefield(1975)
  • The Sanctuary Lamp (1975)
  • The J Arthur Maginnis Story (1976)
  • Epitaph Under Ether (1979)
  • The Blue Macushla (1980)
  • The Informer (1981)
  • The Gigli Concert (1983)
  • Conversations on a Homecoming (1985)
  • Bailegangaire (1985)
  • A Thief Of A Christmas (1985)
  • Too Late For Logic (1989)
  • The Patriot Game (1991)
  • She Stoops To Folly (1995)
  • The Wake (1997)
  • The House (2000)
  • Alice Trilogy (2005)
  • The Last Days Of A Reluctant Tyrant (2009)


  • The Seduction Of Morality (1994)

See also


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