The Abbey Theater, Past and Present

This week for our travel diaries we visited the Abbey Theater, taking a look at the stage and lounge as well as touring the surrounding neighborhood. The theater, founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, is the national theater of Ireland. Located in the North Dock ward in the northeastern part of Dublin, the theater sits right on the bank of the River Liffey which runs through Dublin. Sitting on the southeast corner of the intersection between Sackville Street and Lower Abbey Street, the Abbey Theater looks nothing like the older buildings that surround it, something I found quite surprising. According to the original Abbey Theater was destroyed in 1951 by a fire and temporarily relocated until the current building was opened in 1966. Pictures of the original building fit in with the surrounding buildings much better as the older look of the original building was replaced with a much more modern look for the current building. Even the interior of the current theater has a modern look with a lounge and bar that has huge glass windows looking out over the theater’s entrance on Sackville Street.

I found the modern design of the current building to be contradictory to the rural theme that many in Irish culture had adopted. According to Terence Brown in his book Ireland: a social and cultural history, 1922–79,“It is probable, as I have suggested, that this imaginative interpretation of Irish rural life, particularly as lived on the western island, served as an integrative symbol of national identity in the early years of independence” (p. 87). It is likely that many Irish playwrights, poets, and writers adopted a rural theme in the early years of independence because that was the most protected aspect of Irish culture. The increasingly industrialized and modernized cities or Ireland were long under the control and influence of the British Empire and its culture. This is why I was surprised to see that the current Abbey Theater has a modern design as I would have expected it to be rebuilt with an older, rustic look to reflect the historic culture of Ireland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *