The Irish Times view on the Abbey Theatre: Grievances must be resolved

Actors and writers who were once devoted to the national stage no longer feel a sense of belonging there

There is an onus on our National Theatre to continually refresh its in-house repertoire. Why else does it receive such a high proportion of public funding for theatre in Ireland? Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

There is an onus on our National Theatre to continually refresh its in-house repertoire. Why else does it receive such a high proportion of public funding for theatre in Ireland? Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

In October, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan expressed satisfaction with the way the Abbey Theatre had responded to concerns about job opportunities and pay rates and its failure to develop more new work by Irish playwrights. She described its handling of these issues as “a real demonstration of collaboration between theatre practitioners, between the Abbey and various other stakeholders”. It was, she said, “an ongoing conversation”.

That conversation was loudly interrupted last week with this newspaper’s revelation of accusations that the theatre had reneged on commitments to redress the situation. The original signatories to an open letter condemning an approach to programming that reduced the number of roles for Irish actors and other freelancers, along with the Writers’ Guild of Ireland, contend there is little evidence of sufficient improvements to indicate the theatre was in fact collaborating with the sector in the way the Minister perceived.

The board and directors may be tempted to reference the recently-reported 28 per cent rise in box office receipts and audience growth to defend its policies, but that would be missing the point. There is an onus on our National Theatre to continually refresh its in-house repertoire. Why else does it receive such a high proportion of public funding for theatre in Ireland? There can be a costly but necessary risk element in the gestation of new work, but the Abbey seems unwilling – or uninterested – to take this on. Recent neglect of the Irish canon and the Abbey’s own rich repository has also been condemned. The co-production model adopted by the new directors may be good for the Abbey coffers but not the many artists denied work as a result.

Those who established the theatre saw it as the incubator for new drama that would “bring upon the stage the deeper emotions of Ireland”. The only deep emotions at the moment belong to the many actors and writers who had once devoted their talents to the national stage and no longer feel a sense of belonging there. Their many grievances are legitimate and must be resolved.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.