Barnes' tenure has come to something of an unhappy end at the theatre, after both theatre policy and finances became fierce bones of contention between Barnes and the theatre’s management. According to The New York Times, the Abbey’s deficit was set to surpass $3 million by the end of 2004 and the theatre faced a large numbers of redundancies. MacConghail will be moving from his current post as top policy adviser to the Irish culture minister. Before that he rose through the Irish arts world as an independent theatre and film producer. He will have responsibility at the Abbey for artistic and management decisions, says the Times, but unlike Barnes, he will not direct plays.
The Abbey is one of Ireland’s most historic theatres, having been founded by W.B. Yeats, and having premiered works by many famous playwrights including Sean O’Casey and Brian Friel. MacConghail has said he has a clear structure to return the theatre to its glory days, starting with a restructuring of the board and advisory council. The Arts Council has conditionally promised two million Euros to help with the overhaul.
The new director told reporters that he plans to take a leaf out of the British National Theatre’s book, emulating the same sort of new writing policies and bringing through works that engage with contemporary society. “Irish society,” he said, “is no longer a homogenous, one-colored, one cultured nation. It is the fastest-changing society in the world.”