Why Abbey report card does not tell whole story
The national theatre is actually in far greater artistic health than it has ever been, writes Emer O'Kelly
The Abbey Theatre has been under the spotlight since last week because the incomplete findings of a "quality review" were published in the Irish Times, having been obtained through a freedom of information request. And the Abbey director Senator Fiach Mac Conghail is very upset.
There are a number of reasons why he shouldn't be, the first being that the Abbey is never going to win the PR battle. It has been the chief whipping boy of the arts almost since its establishment. And the irony is that today's whippers point to its past as being an exemplar of excellence, and decry current work and structures. But anyone who bothers to cast a cold eye on the Abbey's past would have to acknowledge that the theatre is in far greater artistic health than it has ever been.
The days of the much-vaunted "permanent company", for many years under the civil service eye of Ernest Blythe, were frequently artistically disastrous. People point to such actors as the late Donal McCann as having cut his teeth there: that was all he did, getting out as soon as possible because of low production standards and artistically deadening influence.