SPEAKING to the assembled audience of invited guests and dignitaries before Sean O’Casey’s superb The Plough and the Stars officially opened the Lime Tree Theatre in Mary Immaculate College, Abbey Theatre director Fiach Mac Conghail promised that the national theatre would “be here more often” in future.
The production, selected by theatre manager Louise Donlon to officially open the new state-of-the-art theatre, marked the first main stage Abbey production in the city in over 30 years.
“It is with a great sense of pride that the Abbey is here opening the Lime Tree,” said Mr Mac Conghail.
Admitting that the Abbey’s link with Limerick was “sporadic”, he nonetheless pointed to the fact that the national theatre had produced Yeats’ Caitlin ni Houlihan in Limerick in 1916.
“We want to be here more often and I can see more productions coming from the large stage of the Abbey to Limerick,” he said, referring to the Lime Tree’s opening.
“Irish audiences deserve to see large scale theatre and there is only so many venues around Ireland that can take large scale theatre and finally Limerick has that,” Mr Mac Conghail added.
Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, and Professor Michael Hayes, president of Mary Immaculate College, along with Mayor of Limerick Cllr Gerry McLoughlin and board chairman Brendan Lane opened the new theatre before the production, the 93rd performance of the Plough and the Stars by The Abbey since they went on tour last July.
It will run until Saturday in the theatre.
Mr Deenihan praised universities for playing their part in developing “multipurpose facilities that can be used both educationally and also within the cultural and community context”, noting that the Lime Tree and Mary I was “one of the finest examples of this”.
“The key to the success of a theatre in a third level setting lies in the commitment of the institution, the local community and the arts sector. It is already clear that the Lime Tree Theatre is in receipt of this commitment,” he said.
MIC president Professor Michael Hayes said the theatre was intended as “your space”.
“It is of critical importance to Limerick city, at whose very heart we are situated, that the economic, social, cultural and civic capital of MIC is put at the disposal of all members of our shared community,” he explained.
To that end, as well as ambitious programme of touring work, a programme that strongly features local companies, including the Cecilians and Limerick Panto Society, has been assembled.
Over 8,000 tickets have already been sold for shows at the theatre, which Ms Donlon said will be “an amazing addition to the cultural infrastructure of Limerick”.