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Tributes pour in as 'giant of Irish theatre' dies

TRIBUTES were being paid last night to the playwright, director and actor Tomas Mac Anna, who has died at the age of 85.

Mr Mac Anna was a former director of the Abbey Theatre and won a Tony Award and a New York Critics Award for his production of 'Borstal Boy'.

The current director of the Abbey, Fiach Mac Conghail, said last night that Mr Mac Anna revolutionised the Abbey.

"He brought the Abbey in to the refreshing, rebellious 1970s and trained a lot of younger actors and directors and was one of the key figures in dragging the Abbey in to the 20th century," he said. "He was never a person to sit still and be satisfied wit the status quo. There was also a certain wicked anarchy in him too."

Upon being told of the news last night, theatre-goers at the Abbey gave Mr Mac Anna a standing ovation.

Meanwhile, Arts Council chairman Pat Moylan called Mr Mac Anna a giant of Irish theatre. "He was one of the most distinguished Irish directors. He is woven into the fabric and history of Irish theatre, especially the Abbey theatre," he said.

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said he was saddened by the news of Mr Mac Anna's death and extended his sympathies to his family and friends.

In the course of a career that spanned more than 50 years, Mr Mac Anna wrote, directed and acted in dozens of plays. He was offered the position of Gaelic producer by the Abbey in 1947.

He later served three terms as artistic director of the theatre and was appointed to its board six years later. He was honorary director of the Abbey at the time of his death.

Irish Independent