Abbey Theatre

“Dublin is brown and weather beaten and old fashioned, and it looks like a place in which history has been made for ages.” – William Bulfin

For this week’s travels, I was fortunate enough to have visited the Old Abbey Theatre in central Dublin. As I was walking the streets around the theatre, the quote from William Bulfin in Chapter 7 of Kilfeather’s Dublin: A Cultural History came to mind. The streets and buildings surrounding Abbey Theatre don’t look modern at all. The concrete sidewalks are stained with grime that has collected over the years, and it looks like the buildings have not been renovated, developed, or polished in many years. The only evidence that the city is still in modern times are the markings on the streets directing traffic, and the few cars scattered here and there throughout the block. The city are no street or traffic lights to be found. The view is almost like time had frozen Dublin for the past 70 years, preserving the city’s vintage feel.

As I walk into the Abbey Theatre, I notice that it looks very different from the urban environment outside, but it still carries the same proud, resilient, and vintage spirit that the streets do.

The theatre lobby has bold red carpeting, modern styled sofas, and smooth countertops made of polished wood, stone, and glass. There are portraits of important people who have shaped the history of the theatre, such as Frank and William Fay, the brothers who managed and shaped the new acting style that the theatre became known for. When you enter the stage, the seats contain the same vermillion shade of the floors in the lobby. The space is minimalistic and simple. The wood walls are undecorated, and I believe this is intentional so that the audience can strictly focus on the play they are watching.
Understanding the theatre’s history as a national landmark of Irish culture is important to understanding the reasons behind its modern renovations. The plays performed were written by authors of the Irish Literary Revival, such as Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey, and works by other famous writers of the revival such as William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory, the latter whom co-founded the Abbey Theatre. The theatre is proud of its distinctly Irish roots and influence, and we can see that the renovations are there to keep up with modern times, but also to honor and preserve its history. The Abbey Theatre, and Dublin as an extension, are a testament to the fact that you can look forward to the future while drawing strength from your past.

1 Comment

  1. Brenda,
    You chose such a perfect quote for this entry!
    I like that you pointed out that perhaps the walls are undecorated so that the plays could be the sole focus. I wonder, if the Abbey theatre were to ever get another update and add more to its decorum, do you think it would actually take away from the theatre? Like maybe the “less is more” idea is what makes the charm of the theatre.

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