Rough Magic Theatre Company presented its first season in Players’ Theatre, Trinity College in August & September 1984. Over 115 productions and 33 years later this remarkable company is donating the Company Archive to the Library of Trinity College Dublin, as part of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Library in 2017.
A celebratory reception was held in the Berkeley Library on July 28th last where Founder/ Artistic Director of Rough Magic Lynne Parker, writer Anne Enright and Rough Magic Associate Director Ronan Phelan spoke along with the Librarian and Archivist at Trinity College, Helen Shenton. A memorable performance by actor and playwright, Arthur Riordan as MC Dev from his satirical rap cabaret ‘The Emergency Session’ appropriately concluded the evening in the Berkeley.
“Our thanks to the Library for this great opportunity to look at the future through the spyglass of the past. It’s exciting to see the similarities between our young selves and the new generation of artists we’re working with today” said Lynne Parker. “The world has changed – the aspiration remains the same. Watch this space.”
‘The Library of Trinity College Dublin holds significant theatrical collections which include John Millington Synge, Samuel Beckett and Tom Murphy material, the archives of the Pike Theatre, and the recently acquired Louis Lentin collection as well as the Dublin University Players’ archives. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Library in July 2017 we are delighted to accept the donation of this ‘Birthday gift’ from Rough Magic, whose founders met through their membership of Players while students at Trinity. The Rough Magic Archive will further strengthen the Library’s holdings in this area and provide a valuable research resource for generations of researchers to come,” said Helen Shenton.
Some of those who began their theatrical careers with Rough Magic over the past 30 years include co-founders Declan Hughes and Lynne Parker, Stanley Townsend, Arthur Riordan, Anne Byrne, Siobhan Bourke, Helene Montague, Darragh Kelly, Anne Enright, Pauline McLynn, Martin Murphy, Donal O’Kelly, Gina Moxley, Eileen Walsh, Peter Hanly, Andrea Irvine, Ali White and many many others. A number of leading actors have had been associated with the company and its work, including Ingrid Craigie, Declan Conlon, Jane Brennan, Eleanor Methven, Owen Roe, Nick Dunning, Stephen Brennan and Olwen Fouere. In recent years the company has helped launch the careers of Rory Nolan, Rory Keenan, Sarah Greene, Lisa Lambe, Peter Daly, Lara Hickey, Ronan Phelan, Tom Creed, Cian O'Brien, Matt Torney, Matt Smyth, Zia Holly, Sophie Motley, Sarah Jane Sheils and many others, particularly through its groundbreaking SEEDS programme.
The Rough Magic Collection (circa 100 archive boxes) is a treasure trove of sketches of costumes and sets by designers, model boxes, script drafts, show programmes, prompt scripts with handwritten annotations, audio visual recordings of productions, correspondence, press clippings, marketing materials, production and rehearsal photographs. It is a complete archive of the rich history of this celebrated Irish theatre company, who will continue to donate materials on an annual basis. It is planned that the collection will be opened to the public in 2019.
“From its establishment in 1984, Rough Magic, led by Trinity graduates Lynne Parker and Declan Hughes, has been one of the most innovative and creative forces in Irish theatre. Originally specialising in the sort of British and American political plays rarely seen in Ireland at the time and in revivals of little known classic works such as Restoration comedy, the company went on to commission important new works by Irish playwrights: Donal O’Kelly, Gina Moxley, Arthur Riordan and Declan Hughes himself. The directorial skills of Parker and Hughes, with the ensemble playing of a quite stable group of actors, made for a new sort of stage energy and intelligence. The company has continued to thrive in the twenty-first century with outstanding achievements such as the musical Improbable Frequency and a production of Taming of the Shrew in an updated Irish setting. At a time when theatrical training, particularly for directors, playwrights and designers was very limited in Ireland, their SEEDS programme provided crucial development for some of the most talented young theatre makers in the country. The acquisition of the Rough Magic archive by Trinity College Library will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to explore this rich history which is so central to Irish theatre of the last thirty years,” said Trinity’s Professor Emeritus of English Literature, Professor Nicholas Grene.
In the first 1984 Rough Magic season programme it was declared: “Rough Magic describes that experience unique to theatre: that feeling of joy experienced when audience and actors connect. It is an ambitious name, and we will try to be worthy of it.” 33 years later, they can safely say their aim has been realised over and over again, with their work experienced by audiences far and wide.