Playwright Tom Murphy
Playwright Tom Murphy
© Leon Farrell

Irish playwright and director Tom Murphy, who worked closely with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin throughout his career, has passed away aged 83, it was announced today.

Murphy was born in County Galway as the youngest of ten children. He had an extensive stage history, with credits including Famine (1977, about the Irish potato famine), Bailegangaire (1985, a folk story) and The Alice Trilogy, which premiered in 2005 at London's Royal Court and starred Juliet Stevenson.

The playwright was no stranger to controversy throughout his lengthy career, with his competition-winning piece A Whistle in the Dark being initially rejected by Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1961 (going on to be produced by Joan Littlewood at Theatre Royal Stratford East, before coming to the West End), while his 1975 piece The Sanctuary Lamp was met with hostility when it first opened at the Abbey for its anti-Catholic nature.

The Sanctuary Lamp was revived at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston in 2010, with Murphy himself directing the production. He also wrote one novel, The Seduction of Mortality in 1994.

Discussing Murphy in 2010, critic Michael Coveney said that: "Murphy, like his great Irish compatriots Brian Friel and Seamus Heaney, is writing about his own life, his own countryside, his own politics, his own friends and family."

Murphy with previous director of the Abbey Theatre Fiach Mac Conghail
Murphy with previous director of the Abbey Theatre Fiach Mac Conghail
© Leon Farrell

Tributes came from a variety of senior figures in both the theatre and Irish community, including Abbey Theatre's artistic director Selina Cartmell , the country's President Higgins and the Druid Theatre Company (where Murphy was writer-in-residence from 1983):