Abbey Theatre reveals ambitious expansion plan

Dublin venue seeks to upsize from 631 to 950 seats in multimillion euro redevelopment

The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh

The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh


The Abbey Theatre is planning a multimillion euro redevelopment and expansion. The plan includes increasing the theatre’s capacity from 631 to 950 seats.

The plans will see the demolition of the existing theatre and several surrounding properties recently acquired by the Abbey.

The planned new building will house two expanded spaces: a flagship 700-seat theatre and a 250-seat space.

A new cafe and restaurant are planned, along with extra rehearsal spaces, a creative arts hub and expanded office space for staff.

A spokeswoman for the theatre said the group believes the “current building is inadequate for artists, audiences and staff. We have been seeking to find a solution to improve this situation for more than 10 years.”

The design of the large-scale regeneration has been completed, and the Abbey is looking to hire a private financial consultant to develop a sustainable business plan and draw up a proposal to seek government funding for the capital project.

In 2012 the Abbey purchased 15-17 Eden Quay, which faces the river Liffey and backs on to the existing theatre.

Last year the group also acquired 22 and 23 Eden Quay, to meet the “urgent need for more office space for Abbey Theatre staff”, a spokeswoman said.

Proposal by November

It is intended that the Abbey Theatre’s preliminary project proposal will be submitted to the Department of Arts by November, for consideration for state funding.

The theatre is putting together a cost-benefit analysis “that determines the best option for the expansion of the theatre, and helps to justify a significant public sector investment”, internal documents detail.

A spokeswoman from the national theatre said the redevelopment would be funded “through a combination of public and private sources”, but that no fundraising campaign has begun as of yet.

The total estimated cost of the capital expansion is not known, as the theatre group is only beginning to draw up financial costings for the redevelopment.

But internal documents show the theatre is preparing to meet government requirements for capital project plans that are valued over €20 million.

The Department of Arts is believed to very supportive of the long-held plans to redevelop the Abbey Theatre.

However, a spokeswoman from the department said “the process is at a very early stage in relation to the preparation of a business case and the potential for any capital support from the State.

“The department will continue to liaise with the Abbey as it develops its proposals.”