(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 4/15.)
Let the speculation begin. The Abbey Theatre board has officially begun recruiting a new director today to succeed Fiach MacConghail at the end of 2016.
Even the title of the most high-profile, influential, widely admired, endlessly criticised, lonely and potentially rewarding job in Irish theatre is a point open to ceaseless discussion. The role of director originated at the same time as MacConghail’s appointment, in 2005, when the renowned theatre producer and former artistic adviser was named the Abbey’s first Director/CEO after a long line of Artistic Directors. MacConghail took over sooner than expected, steered the theatre through a financial and organisational crisis caused by 2004’s disastrous centenary celebrations and towards a new, fleeter corporate structure, rescued from debt by a €4m government bailout.
MacConghail’s tenure, although hardly without event, has been remarkably stable compared to the 110-year-old theatre’s brisk history of changing artistic advisers and artistic directors. When he steps down at the end of his contract in December, 2016, MacConghail will have served 12 years as the head of the Abbey, making him one of its longest-serving chiefs.