For this week’s adventure, I was fortunate enough to spend a considerable amount of time exploring the historic Abbey Theatre.
After reading other travelers’ accounts of the place, the general consensus seems to be that the building is a bit underwhelming compared to the more grandiose depictions we may have conjured up in our minds. It doesn’t possess the lavish extravagance we may have been expecting, and it doesn’t resemble the theatres of Los Angeles.
But I actually found the theatre’s simplicity to be quite remarkable. When recalling the Abbey’s history, it is important to remember how the place served, first and foremost, as a site for storytelling. Founded in 1904, its purpose was to put on shows by acclaimed playwrights, Yeats and Gregory included. The theatre played a role in important political movements and was literally and symbolically a part of the Irish Literary Revival. I think the dramatic opulence we oftentimes associate with the theatre in general can actually distract from the raw performances.
One of the quotes I found on the Abbey Theatre’s website that really stood out to me was from their manifesto, “to bring upon the stage the deeper emotions of Ireland.” These plays showcase the often harsh realities of Irish life. The emotions are real and resonant, and I loved that this was their message.
As I ventured from the iconic Abbey stage to the cafe and main entrance, I obviously noticed the modern and sleek elements, the attempts to blend contemporary urban life with its original form. Even though these clashes exist, and sometimes the modern architecture appears striking against the older background, I still saw the preservation of tradition. The Irish culture remains intact, despite the changing times. When expanding to create this modern look, the history was never demolished. I still felt like the initial manifesto remained. The Abbey Theatre focuses on emotion, on stories, and on Ireland itself. And what a powerful thing that is.