Building row takes centre stage on opening night of €80m theatre
'I am hoping to re-establish the Dublin tradition of going to the theatre where people are not intimidated by theatre'
IT has taken two-and-a-half years to build at a cost of €80m.
However, the long-awaited opening of the Grand Canal Theatre last night has been overshadowed by a bitter row involving developer Harry Crosbie and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).
Theatre-goers arriving at the premiere of 'Swan Lake' had to do without car-park facilities directly under the theatre and the vista of uncompleted building work in Grand Canal Square in front of the venue.
The 2,000-seat theatre, designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, was built on land formerly owned by the DDDA.
However, Mr Crosbie said he was "disappointed" the same DDDA hadn't manage to complete either the car park or the square in front of the venue, both still under construction.
"I am disappointed. The Dublin Docks Development car park underneath us isn't ready and it's their fault. It has nothing to do with us. And also the square hasn't been finished and that's theirs as well, our part of it is finished, perfect and clean and we're open," he told the Irish Independent.
In his words "making the best of it", Mr Crosbie advised those attending his theatre to arrive using public transport: "The Luas and the DART, whatever. We're telling everybody to use public transport," he said.
But last night the 65-year-old was thankful he had realised his dream of coming up with a venue which would give the Irish public the choice of the best productions in the world, whether that be opera, ballet, musicals or drama. "I am hoping to re-establish the Dublin tradition of going to the theatre, where people are not intimidated by theatre and it is a populist medium, rather than an elitist one," Mr Crosbie said.
Among the upcoming productions are 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', a stage adaptation of 'When Harry Met Sally' and hit musical 'Hairspray' along with opera and ballet.
Box-office returns seemed to suggest it's a winning mix, with all seven of the Russian State Ballet's productions of 'Swan Lake', whose run opened the theatre last night, sold out, and a total of 120,000 tickets for various shows at the theatre already purchased.
"We felt the product we were doing was strong enough that the risk was acceptable. I want to stress that this was achieved not by me but by my staff. It's a team effort with credit to Mike Adamson our managing director. I am only the spokesman," Mr Crosbie added.
The developer, who lives locally, was similarly unfazed by the failure of the venue to find a sponsor for naming rights unlike the nearby O2 venue which has a capacity of 14,000.
The developer is adamant the other drawback to the theatre, its location, in an area of docklands turned into a ghost town by the recession, would not stop it from triumphing.
"It's not ideal but we believe in the product. I believe in this theatre.
"And all my team believe we will be proved right. It's not for the faint-hearted to be doing this sort of stuff, but we are quietly confident we will do well," he added.
A DDDA spokeswoman confirmed construction was still ongoing at Grand Canal Square.
The authority claimed the car park would be completed by mid-June, when 150 spaces would be added.