Seven new Abbey productions announced

Extra Peacock shows possible if theatre revenues improve

The Abbey director, Fiach Mac Conghail, has called on the Government “to protect and increase financial support for the arts in Ireland” at the launch of the National Theatre’s 110th anniversary programme.

A new play by Michael West and plans for an Irish and international tour of Owen McCafferty's award-winning play Quietly are among the highlights of the programme.

Speaking at the launch in the theatre, Mr Mac Conghail congratulated Sheila Pratschke on her appointment as chair of the Arts Council, and hoped for "a constructive working relationship" between the National Theatre and the council.

The Abbey, which receives more than half the total State subsidy for theatre, saw its Arts Council funding fall this year by 8 per cent, from €7.1 million in 2013 to €6.5 million. “I am faced with tough decisions and in this sense we are no different to any other arts organisation, or indeed any family or company in Irish society,” said Mr Mac Conghail.

The Abbey programme features seven new productions staged between the Abbey and the Peacock theatre, and extensive tours, but only nine weeks of programming have been scheduled for the often dormant Peacock. Further programming for the Peacock was possible, Mr Mac Conghail said, if the Abbey shows did well at the box office or additional savings could be made.

Two small-scale touring productions will bring the theatre’s work to 20 venues in Ireland and abroad, while these overlapping endeavours amount to 311 performance over 213 days.

Michael West, the award-winning writer best known for his work with the Corn Exchange, makes his independent debut at the National Theatre with Conservatory at the Peacock in March. Featuring an ageing couple with a dark past and binding secret, it also marks Michael Barker Caven's directorial debut at the Abbey. Conservatory is the only new play yet announced for the National Theatre's stages.