Director of troubled Irish theatre to quit

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

GARRY HYNES, the artistic director brought in two years ago to revive Ireland's national theatre, the Abbey, is to quit after failing to win backing for reforms. When appointed in 1990 she became the sixth person to hold the post in five years.

Ms Hynes will leave when her three-year contract expires at the end of this year. She said the Abbey's board had 'never accepted either the principle of the need for reform, or the urgency of this need'.

She added: 'It has become clearer and clearer that my perception of the need for substantial reform is not shared by the board.' She told the Irish Times: 'The only conditions under which I would go forward for another term will not be met.' She did not specify what proposals had been blocked. Ms Hynes, 39, came to the Abbey from Galway's Druid Theatre, which she helped form in the mid-Seventies, and where her exacting direction secured an international reputation. She took major productions on tour to rural areas, including islands off the west coast.

Her appointment was widely welcomed after a period of drift in the late Eighties that saw more innovative theatre companies eclipse the Abbey. But her early Abbey productions, including an austere treatment of O'Casey's The Plough and The Stars were roasted by critics.

There were also reports of shows cancelled when well into production, and friction over existing plans to disband the Abbey's permanent company of actors, amid a worsening deficit. But recent productions won acclaim, including an Irish country-and-western version of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, and there has been much interest in new plays coming to the Abbey over the next six months, including the world premiere of Brian Friel's Wonderful Tennessee. Tomas MacAnna, a previous artistic director, regretted her departure. 'By my reckoning we're having a crisis in the Abbey every two years now. It used to be every five years . . . The Abbey can't keep changing artistic directors as if they were hairdos.'

The newly-appointed chairman of the Abbey board, James Hickey, said he was very sorry at Ms Hynes' decision: 'I would like to talk to her about the situation.'