The Abbey: A Renovated Theatre with an Old Purpose

In reading one other blog post it was brought to my attention that theatre, in England’s past, was considered a lower art form and actors and actresses were seen as similar to prostitutes. Keeping this in mind, I looked at Thom’s map with interest when I noticed that the Abbey Theatre is found in what is called the “North Dock Ward” where I presume many industrial and shipping workers lived. Is this not by chance? Was theatre considered shameful for the upper classes to attend and so it was relegated to one of Ireland’s shipping districts? These are questions I wondered when I saw the theatre’s location on Thom’s 1904 map. Once inside The Abbey Theatre, I saw an interesting painted quote on the wall of the theatre’s cafe: 

Is this an allusion to the theatre’s old reputation as an immoral place?  

Going inside The Abbey, I could see where criticism could come in from a Los Angeles native at how small, undecorated, and cramped the interior design is. However, in understanding the theatre’s history as a form of protest against the trampling of Irish entertainment and culture- I saw the cramped space as a way to bridge the gap between actor and audience, creating a form of bonding that allows for this cultural appreciation and re-teaching to occur. 

What was really interesting for me, is to see how modern and revamped the theatre was in terms of its design but it took great care during this renovation to not lose its original intent as a place of Irish pride and reconnection with Gaelic roots (Kilfeather 142). One can see that in the clear Irish signage that has taken pride of place over English. 

The repurposing of Irish Literary Revivalism and Nationalism as seen in the modern renovation of the Abbey Theatre is what interested me most in my exploration using Google Maps and One can see just by the titles of plays posted, such as “Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme”. This play clearly takes an ancient Irish Nationalist folk tale, and adds flair that makes it appealing to a modern generation. One can see in the posters adorned on the wall, that the now modern Abbey theatre is still fulfilling its original purpose: taking older Irish literary works and culture- and making them a source of pride for modern Irish audiences.

1 Comment

  1. I wrote a similar blog post in which I outlined the differences between the modern revamp and the preservation of culture, specifically how it connects with the Irish pride you mentioned in Kilfeather’s book. I really loved your insight and observations about the theatre’s location. You brought up an interesting point about class and I’d be curious to see if watching shows about lower class tenement life was especially shameful for the upper class? I also wonder what you think preserving that culture, that space that was reserved to tell stories like these, says about Irish class and society today?

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