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Abbey Theatre to spend ?730,000 on a building it's soon to abandon

THE Abbey Theatre is to spend ?730,000 on revamping its auditorium - although it will be moving to a new site in a few years.

The new auditorium in the Abbey Street building in Dublin city centre will hold 492 seats, while acoustics and the audience's view will be improved.

The seating will be removed so that the auditorium can be reshaped and given a new floor designed by Jean-Guy Lecat and Irish designer Paul Keogan.

An Abbey spokeswoman said they had a responsibility to serve their customers at the current city-centre building. "We have a responsibility to our audiences. We have an artistic remit as well as a financial one."

She added: "We are doing extremely well in the last while. We are getting strong audiences."

The Labour Party's arts spokesman Jack Wall said he would question the amount being spent on the auditorium, at an Arts, Sport and Tourism Committee meeting taking place today. At this meeting, spending estimates for the year will be examined.

"If it is anything to do with safety and fire control I would see the logic.

"But other than that I can't see where the logic would be in spending three-quarters of a million euro which, over the period we are talking about, they wouldn't be able to recoup," Mr Wall said.

"They are certainly not going to get it back in revenue as it is not a renovation of the full building."

The theatre is to move to a new landmark building at a site at George's Docks chosen by the Government.

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An inter-agency group set up to oversee the move is considering the design, the hosting of an architectural competition and the type of public-private partnership that should be used for funding.

A spokesman for the Arts Department insisted that the theatre needed to continue to invest in its "audience experience" both on stage and back-stage during the transition period.

The work would "see the theatre and its customers through the transition to a new building".

Construction work on the current auditorium began following the last run of 'Julius Caesar' on Saturday, March 17.

It is expected to take just a few weeks to complete and will be finished before the previews of Bill Roche's acclaimed play 'The Cavalcaders' on April 10.

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