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October 27, 2007

The waiting goes on for the Abbey

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If it were a play, the epic saga of the Abbey Theatre’s new building would be a combination of Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Waiting for Godot. Vivian Mercier’s famous description of the latter as a play in which nothing happens, twice, came to mind last week. The heading on the press release from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism was “Minister announces details of design competition for new National Theatre in Dublin’s Docklands”. For some reason, it reminded me of the heading on a press release from the same department issued on September 7th, 2006: “O’Donoghue announces international design competition for the Abbey Theatre at George’s Dock in Dublin”. More than a year after it was first announced, the design competition for the new building has now been announced again. The Abbey highlighted the inadequacy of the present building in the early 1980s, when Joe Dowling was artistic director. Nothing much happened until 1994, when the theatre commissioned a preliminary study highlighting the lack of disabled access to the Peacock, terrible acoustics, noisy and worn mechanical and electrical plant, outdated stage equipment, poor fire safety. At that time, the theatre came up with a refurbishment plan, costed at £10.4 million and including a narrower, more focused auditorium.

The Irish Times