Ireland’s National Theater

(via Wikipedia)

I walked around the River Liffey, past the famous (and infamous) Custom House Building, and turned into the Abbey Theatre. The Thom’s 1904 map I carry for reference doesn’t mark the theater building by name, but I note Abbey Street in the North City Ward and wonder what the exterior of this portion of the city looked like a century, even a century and a half earlier. The marks of this history are not necessarily evident by the modern looking facade and lobby of the theater (the original building burned down in the fifties), but the evidence of the theatre’s long history is there. I noticed that the portraits on the wall were painted by John Butler Yeats, the father of W.B. Yeats, alluding to the theater’s intertwined history with Irish literary revival. 

Entering the theater, I noticed that the theater space itself is reminiscent of theaters I have been to in London built in a similar era — both the very steep audience terrace, and the backdrops and curtains on the stage are reminiscent. I am particularly struck by the similarity between the English stage when thinking about how closely associated the theater was with the Irish literary revivalists. The kinds of plays staged there — such as Juno and the Paycock in 1924 — were particularly Irish, Juno and the Paycock bringing the cycles of violence and poverty of the Dublin tenements to the high art space of the theater, placing the two spheres in conversation and holding them in equal importance.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Alexa, I agree with your point about how the theatre looks similar to ones in London. It is funny how Dublin in its totality really is built to mimic London in so many ways, especially when you look at the designs of its parks. Perhaps that is why there was such an impulse to reinstitute the Ireland’s native identity in whatever ways possible, amidst this overarching colonial architecture. It almost gives the theatre more significance and power seeing as it mimics English theatre plans, yet its purpose is completely at odds with its design.

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