Neil Murray (left) and Graham McLaren pictured at the opening of The Abbey Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith’s production of The Plough and the Stars at the Gaiety Theatre last May

‘It is with regret that we, the undersigned theatre practitioners, write to apprise you of our deep concern and dissatisfaction with the direction that the Abbey Theatre has taken since the appointment of its directors, Neil Murray and Graham McLaren.

The grace period since their arrival is well and truly over and the situation in which the Irish theatre community finds itself is now critical. While the institution may be financially buoyant – and due congratulations for this – the freelance theatre community, in particular, has been cast adrift.

Part of a letter signed by 300 actors, directors, designers, agents and playwrights to Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan yesterday


“The Abbey Theatre is artist-led and audience-focused: we aim to ensure our programmes are driven by ambitious, big ideas by theatre-makers of all disciplines, relevant to our times and reflective of our role as a national theatre. In this approach to theatre making, we are following patterns found in many countries with strong traditions in the theatre and we are seeking to address with urgency some of the key social, cultural and political issues of our time.”

The Abbey Theatre in response

Abbey Theatre uproar: 300 actors and directors complain to Minister (Irish Times)

300 theatre members express ‘deep concern’ over Abbey (RTÉ)


29 thoughts on “Shabbey

  1. Iwerzon

    Running to teacher never works – direct dialogue with the Abbey might. Where is their union Equity in all of this -collective bargaining and all that?

    1. George

      Yeah, it worked for waking the feminists. Also why assume there haven’t been unsuccessful discussions?

      1. Iwerzon

        Has it worked for waking the feminists? Where is the evidence? I’m sincerely interested in plays by female writers which have emerged and been produced since WTF if you can let me know.

          1. Iwerzon

            ….plays by female writers which have emerged and been produced at the Abbey. I thought we are talking about the Abbey? (that’s where WTF started seemingly).

    2. gerry

      It wasn’t exclusively abbey the abbey but a particular programme at the Abbey sparked the action most likely because at the time the Gate was considered a lost cause. Here are some examples from the Abbey but next time do your own Googling.

      @McLaren and Murray’s programme for 2018 reflects a commitment to women, as artistic collaborators from numerous independent theatre companies such as Landmark, Anu Productions, Fishamble and Gare St Lazare, as well as playwrights, directors, designers and choreographers directly commissioned by the Abbey, such as Marina Carr and Gina Moxley. Two new female producers have joined the creative team. A number of new plays to be staged in the coming months explore the subject of sexual consent, including Asking for It by Louise O’Neil (a co-production between Landmark and the Everyman theatre, based on her novel of the same title), and Rathmines Road by Deirdre Kinahan. In February, they will produce Porcelain, a debut play by the Irish writer, Margaret Perry, and a new version of Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles-Soeurs by Deirdre Kinahan, with an all-female cast of 15.”

  2. Observer

    So, the Minister should decide what actors get hired and what plays are picked to run at the Abbey?

    1. bisted

      …politicians in general and the blueshirts in particular seem to despise the Arts…the appointment of Heather Humphries was an act of cynicism and Josepha is more of the same…the National Theatre should be held in the same esteem as The Book of Kells or Newgrange…it is a national treasure and it’s destiny should not be determined by bean counters…

        1. gerry

          The book of Kells is a historical object. They don’t have to pay someone to draw the artwork everyday.

  3. Shane Duffy

    “… we are seeking to address with urgency some of the key social, cultural and political issues of our time.”

    So they do that by importing a West End musical about 9/11, staging an adaptation of Ulyssess and a 1960s novel, The Country Girls? Right so.

    1. bisted

      …the only one of those that I went to was Ulysses…while I quite enjoyed the production I thought it would have been more appropriate in the Gaeity or Olympia…

        1. bisted

          …all of those and much more…the audience were behind and in front and the stage was removed with more seating (including me) with the actors and mannequins. Dermot Bolger had adapted it for stage and it got a standing ovation on the night I was there.

          1. Paulus

            I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if a standing ovation was warranted or not – happy to give benefit of doubt.
            However, as a measure of appreciation, the standing ovation is becoming somewhat devalued through over-use. If a production is so good that an audience is moved, almost in unison, to jump to their feet while applauding, then that suggests a genuine reaction.
            What is more likely is that someone who has enjoyed the show and/or has relatives/friends on the stage will stand up to applaud while glaring at those around as if challenging them to do the same.
            This usually results in a Trickle-Up Standing Ovation, (or TUSO*) which doesn’t have the same cachet at all – it’s like being damned with faint praise.
            (School concerts or are, of course, exempt from all this!)
            * I like to invent acronyms and see if they catch on – this one has a short shelf-life I fear.

  4. Eoin

    In 2019, what is a government (any government) doing with such huge interests in a theatre business?

    In 2017, the Abbey had €12 million of income, of which €7.3 million came from the taxpayer as grants. The theatre had box office income of just €2,508,317. The culture minister appoints at least three of the directors of the Abbey including the chairperson.

    Also, why is the director of vulture fund Pimco, Frances Ruane on the board of the Abbey as the chairperson? Maybe Pimco could use a tiny fraction of the profits its earns off the backs of others to bail out the Abbey?

    1. George

      It is called funding the arts. Pretty much every government does it.
      Australia invests quite a lot in the Sydney Opera House, you know.

        1. George

          I knew you’d focus on the one example. There are countless examples globally so I want bother to bring up how much Australia has invested in the building. Catch yourself on. We invest less in the arts than most countries in Europe.

          Name the pub and play, please.

      1. George

        If want to just have shops and a cinema showing superhero films we could cut all arts funding.

        1. Cathal

          There’s arts and there’s pure POOPY. Theatres are crying that they need more funding but they are to blame for most of the empty seats. If nobody wants to see they plays it’s time to put on stuff that people want. Bumblebee the musical if needed .

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