Leading Irish theatre company Druid is back on British shores from next week with its renowned revival of JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. Timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Synge’s death, the production opens on 7 May 2009 (preview 6 May) at Oxford Playhouse prior to a seven-week regional tour and planned London transfer.

Synge’s 1907 Irish classic tells the story of Christy Mahon, who stumbles into a public house in County Mayo claiming he has killed his father and so capturing the imagination of the locals and the romantic attention of the daughter of the house, Pegeen Mike.

Founded in 1975, Druid was the first professional theatre company in Ireland outside Dublin, and the first play it staged was Playboy. Since then, the production – directed by Druid artistic director Garry Hynes and often credited as the “definitive” staging of the play – has played around the globe, including seasons in New York, Edinburgh, Perth and Tokyo.

In 2005, Hynes fulfilled a long-term artistic commitment at the Edinburgh International Festival by staging “The Complete Plays of JM Synge” (See News, 24 Mar 2005). In repertoire care of a 25-strong company, it was the first time that all of Synge’s plays - The Shadow of the Glen, The Tinker’s Wedding, The Well of the Saints, Riders to the Sea and Deirdre of the Sorrows, in addition to Playboy - were performed together.

Over the years, Druid has also successfully championed numerous other Irish playwrights, bringing them to international recognition, including Tom Murphy, Martin McDonagh and Enda Walsh. It’s recently had UK successes with premieres of Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom, both of which transferred to London (to the National and Riversides Studios, respectively) after award-winning runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, and with a revival of McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan.

Last autumn’s tour of The Cripple of Inishmaan also began at Oxford Playhouse, and launched an ongoing partnership between the Playhouse and Druid which will see the company bringing more productions to UK venues outside London over the next three years.

In the Synge play, Aaron Monaghan, who took the title role in Cripple, reprises his performance as Christy Mahon. He’s joined in the cast by Derbhle Crotty, Andrew Bennett, Clare Dunne, Andy Kellegher, Aidan Kelly, Marcus Lamb, Christiane O’Mahony, John Olohan, Gemma Reeves and Seona Tully.

The Playboy of the Western World is designed by Francis O’Connor, with lighting by Davy Cunningham, sound by John Leonard, costumes by Kathy Strachan and original music by Sam Jackson. Following Oxford, the production continues to Brighton, Richmond, Salford, Galway, Liverpool and Cardiff.

Dates and venue for the London transfer have not yet been announced.

- by Terri Paddock