What began as a boost for young artists is now a major national theatre

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Abbey Theatre

A night at the theatre

In sharp contrast to other cultural centres that were destined for the middle classes from the day they were built, the Abbey Theatre, today the National Theatre of Ireland, started from the bottom: it was suggested by Irish playwrights as a place for the working classes who, ever since it was opened in 1904, came back night after night to watch the popular plays of the season. The dramatist William Butler Yeats, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was one of the driving forces behing the idea, having good connections with the Irish Literary Theatre which was trying to promote the country’s young playwrights in order to revive native culture and traditions. It was Yeats’ secretary and costume designer, a wealthy English lady by the name of Lady Annie Elizabeth Fredericka Horniman, who finally put up the money that made the building of the Abbey Theatre possible. The godparents of Irish theatre got involved with the project by bringing their plays to show there, and they filled the stalls with every performance. Nowadays it is still considered an international theatrical landmark for Irish and foreign actors who tread its stage.

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