Abbey Theatre – A New Direction

Home at the Abbey Theatre online

I have just watched ‘HomePart 1’ the Abbey Theatre’s incredible dramatization of some of the testimonies of women survivors of Mother and Baby institutions.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes published its report in January 2021 with some controversy as many women felt their experiences had not been properly included or covered in the report.

This haunting piece of online theatre performed on the Abbey stage by some of Irelands foremost actresses gave voice to women and girls of all ages that have been ignored for decades. ‘Home’ is still available online from the Abbey.

The Abbey Theatre over the past year has proved itself to be versatile, responsive and innovative in finding a way to bring new theatre to audiences.

On March 11th 2020 The Abbey Theatre had to close its doors due to Covid 19 restrictions as Ireland went into lockdown.  However by April 28th the Abbey had gathered itself to produce an incredible new type of theatre available to audiences online to reflect Ireland’s situation with 50 playwrights and 50 actors tasked with reflecting how Ireland was dealing with life during a pandemic.

In ‘Dear Ireland’ over three nights a series of dramatic and extraordinary monologues reflected the difficult new and bewildering situation faced by so many. Isolated from friends, family and routine or working all hours on the frontline. Everyone in that audience aware of the giant step that was being taken by our National Theatre for The Abbey had flung open its doors and reached a massive new audience both at home and overseas. 

Such was its success that ‘Dear Ireland’ has continued with further additions to include a wider view of those affected.

Other highlights includes Lisa Tierney Keogh’s ‘This Beautiful Virtual Village’ and a live performance of ‘The Great Hunger’ held outdoors in the grounds of the I.M.MA in Kilmainham which brought Patrick Kavanagh’s epic poem to life.

Michael Foley’s ‘Fourteen Voices from the Bloodied Field’ produced with the GAA gave voice to those who died tragically in an attack, in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday on 21st November 1920. The Abbey even brought award winning writer Edna O’Brien’s   T.S Eliot Lecture to its audience.

The Abbey Theatre despite Covid has in that time employed 600 freelance theatre makers,  and believe it or not  attracted an audience of 324, 490 online.  An incredible 46% of that audience were from overseas.

The Abbey Theatre normally would average an audience of 122, 820 attending the theatre annually but this new direction has uncovered a much larger audience for our National Theatre.

While we all look forward to a return to proper theatre. I do hope that the Abbey Theatre will continue to use this exciting new platform to showcase its work and reach a much wider audience including those that often cannot easily manage to get to the theatre, or live in far flung Kerry, Berlin or New York etc.