Abbey Theatre buys site next door


FOLLOWING SEVERAL rejected plans for the Abbey Theatre, including relocating to the GPO, the Carlton cinema site and Dublin Docklands, the long-running saga of the building’s redevelopment has taken a twist with its purchase of a site next door.

The national theatre has spent €1.5 million on 15-17 Eden Quay with a view to redeveloping “at some point in the future”.

The deal comes after it was last year decided that the theatre should remain on its current site during the term of the current Government. It followed the rejection of the most recent suggestion – that the Abbey be moved to the GPO – on the basis that it would cost €293 million to relocate to O’Connell Street.

The Abbey’s director, Fiach Mac Conghail, said that it would now begin the early design stages for a building that would house three theatres – of 600, 300 and 100 seats – as well as a restaurant and other facilities. It would now engage in fundraising in the hope that, along with further capital funding, the sod could be turned on the new building on Easter Monday 2016.

The purchase of the Eden Quay site was funded through existing National Theatre money. “We are now in control of our own destiny,” said Mr Mac Conghail. “It finally lays to rest all the speculation about where we would be going, and it’s no longer a theory.”

He described the buying of the offices on Eden Quay, which will remain unused for now because of the cost of renovation, as “a downpayment on the future. We’re creating a legacy.”

The theatre would not be drawn on the expected cost of the redevelopment. However in the current economic climate it could be in the region of €100 million.

For some time the current Abbey building, completed in 1966, has been considered inadequate for the needs of a modern theatre. Many of its problems stem from its design as much as the space it occupies, although Mac Conghail said that it was “bursting at the seams”.

This year the theatre was forced to move its production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars to the nearby O’Reilly Theatre at Belvedere College while asbestos could be removed.

As of 2010, the plans had already cost €400,000 over the terms of five culture ministers.