Leading article: Abbey life

The Abbey's very name conjures the famous shades of Ireland's literary history: William Butler Yeats stalked the place. It staged plays by John Millington Synge, Brendan Behan, and Sean O'Casey. Some of these changed, or at least helped to define, Ireland. When O'Casey's The Playboy of the Western World premiered at the Abbey, its portrayal of Irish peasant life caused the audience to riot.

The Abbey had dull periods: 1950s Ireland was not an exciting place, and the theatre did little to enliven it. But the Abbey, now 101 years old, has done much to reflect a turbulent Irish century.

Perhaps a decade or two from now, some Irish playwright will be writing of the events of the next few weeks, when it is hoped the IRA will announce plans to take the gun out of Irish politics. The disappearance of the shadow of violence would indeed be a fitting dramatic and historic subject to be staged at the Abbey.

More immediately, the theatre's funding system has to be overhauled to get it out of the debts that it incurred during last year's over-ambitious celebration of its centenary.

Almost miraculously, the quality of its output is not considered to have been damaged by the backstage troubles, despite the fact that some of the theatre's key figures have departed. Its troubles have made for bad public relations, but encouragingly the Abbey has managed to keep the show on the road. May it continue to do so for many more years yet.

Comments