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Curtains come down on Abbey Theatre for two months after asbestos found in auditorium

THE curtains will close on Ireland's national theatre The Abbey for two months because potentially deadly asbestos has been discovered in the famous auditorium.

Bosses at the Dublin playhouse said there was no health risk to theatre-goers or workers but they decided to remove the dangerous material for the long-term safety of staff.

Performances of Sean O'Casey's The Plough And The Stars will relocate to nearby OReilly Theatre at Belvedere College in Great Denmark Street during the shutdown between July 17 and September 15.

During this time the asbestos, discovered during an inspection of the building in January, is to be removed.

An Abbey Theatre spokesman said it has worked closely with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in developing a plan to carry out the works.

He said: "There is no health risk whatsoever for staff or patrons, which has been confirmed by ongoing weekly air-quality tests, carried out by a specialist analytical company.

"We have opted to fully remove the asbestos for the long-term safety of our staff because theatre involves a lot of technical work and staff may be required to work in the areas where asbestos was identified."

The Abbey box office and other parts of the theatre are expected to remain open for business during the remedial works.

The Abbey said it was acting on the advice of consultants and in line with international best practice, with the HSA being kept informed throughout the process.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has provided money for the works.

The Plough And The Stars was to be staged at the theatre in Lower Abbey Street between July 26 and September 15 before embarking on a tour of Ireland and the UK.

Those who have already booked tickets for the play are to be contacted by telephone by box office staff, the spokesman said.

The auditorium is due to reopen in time for the Dublin Theatre Festival.