Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy led tributes last night following the death of a giant of Irish theatre, Dan Donovan, who helped foster Murphy’s love of theatre and acting.
Mr Donovan was nationally known and admired as a theatre actor, producer, and director — directing several world premieres of John B Keane works, and playing a huge role in the development of Cork’s emerging theatre scene in the 1950s.
He died at Mount Desert care home in Cork yesterday. He was 91.
Cillian Murphy told the Irish Examiner that he remembered Mr Donovan, a former teacher and deputy principal at Presentation College, Cork, from his time as a student there pacing the schoolyard and canteen “silently mouthing lines”.
“I found this so exotic and fascinating, and now it is something I do myself. Perhaps without his grace,” he said.
“It was only later on that I learnt how multi-faceted his talents were and how much of a legend he was.
“He had a very significant impact on theatre in Cork and in Ireland.”
Mr Donovan helped establish the Southern Theatre Group in 1959 before he went on to form the Theatre of the South in 1969.
He was a founder of the Everyman Palace Theatre Group and played a major role in the theatre’s development. Presentation College also named their theatre in his honour. He was named 2006 Cork Person of the Year for his contribution to Irish theatre.
Conor Keane, son of the late John B Keane, described Mr Donovan as a “formidable and gifted director” who played a crucial role in his father’s career and who repeatedly took the country by storm with the Southern Theatre Group in much the same way Druid and Garry Hynes does today.
“John B trusted the Southern Theatre Group under the late James N Healy, with Dan Donovan as director, to bring Sive to the professional stage for the first time,” Mr Keane said.
“John B owes Dan Donovan a great debt for the care, insight, passion and pure professionalism he brought to bear on a young playwright’s early work.”
The BBC’s award-winning Africa Editor, Fergal Keane, who was taught by Mr Donovan, said: “Dan was the most erudite and entertaining of teachers, a gentleman who offered his wisdom and example.”
Mr Donovan, who was single and predeceased by his two sisters, will be buried after 10am Mass at the Church of Christ the King in Turner’s Cross on Thursday.
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