Rubble from Abbey to play bit part in proposed open-air theatre

Harry Crosbie to launch planning application for shell-shaped design in Docklands

Artist’s illustration of the proposed People’s Theatre  at Hanover Dock, Dublin

Artist’s illustration of the proposed People’s Theatre at Hanover Dock, Dublin

 

Plans for an open-air theatre on Hanover Dock have taken a dramatic twist with a previous design – which leaned heavily on rubble from the old Abbey Theatre – torn up in favour of a shell-shaped space.

The original idea, conceived by businessman Harry Crosbie, was to use old stones currently gathering moss in a Dalkey garden after they were rescued from the Abbey Theatre when it burned down in 1951, to build a Greek-style amphitheatre for free events in Dublin.

However, the Abbey’s stones could not be made to fit with the original designs. The stones were reduced to a bit part in the design with the lead role in what Mr Crosbie has dubbed the “People’s Theatre” now taken by a steel and fibre glass shell.

“The Abbey stones didn’t really work with the design but we still want to use a smaller number of them as part of the stage to make sure that we have that historical connection with the old Abbey,” he said.

Planning application

Mr Crosbie – with the Gate Theatre’s former director, Michael Colgan, broadcaster Gay Byrne, U2’s studio and production manager Sam O’Sullivan and architect David Brown – is expected to lodge a planning application with Dublin City Council in the coming days.

“We have decided to use the shell design because it will allow for the stage area to be covered and it will dramatically improve the acoustics as it will have a natural amplification affect,” he said.

Harry Crosbie is calling on schools, colleges and bands to send ideas for events at the proposed People’s Theatre. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Harry Crosbie is calling on schools, colleges and bands to send ideas for events at the proposed People’s Theatre. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

“All the shell’s petals will be bolted together and the lighting will be a lot more dramatic this way,” he added.

“It will also be possible to dismantle the stage so it isn’t going to be a permanent structure. That will hopefully make the planning process less onerous.”

The idea is to apply for planning permission for the first two seasons and see what happens after that. “Because it can be dismantled easily we will be able to take it on tour to other parts of the country or maybe build a second one.”

Community focus

The group also wants to sell the naming rights for the outdoor theatre. Mr Crosbie estimates that the endeavour will need €500,000 to cover the build, the installation and fitting, ongoing maintenance and the day-to-day running of the venue. There will be one full-time staff member and a couple of volunteers.

“There is a lot of interest in it already,” Mr Crosbie said. “But the next step is planning. If that happens we would hope to have it up and running for next summer. All the people working on the project are doing it pro bono and everything that happens on the stage will be completely free.”

Highlighting the community nature of the project, Mr Crosbie has called on schools, colleges, bands, dance troupes, poets, comedians and other performers to send ideas which could be staged to the People’s Theatre, Hanover Dock Dublin 2.