Belfast Telegraph

Brexit posing ‘ridiculous challenge’ to actors – Abbey Theatre director

Neil Murray said it was a “farce” which could not have been envisaged by even the most foresighted script writer.

Brexit is posing a ridiculous and false challenge, the director of Ireland’s leading theatre said.

Neil Murray from the Abbey said it was a “farce” which could not have been envisaged by even the most foresighted script writer.

He warned that actors faced additional tax and currency issues amid the UK’s pending EU divorce.

The Dublin venue co-produced recently with colleagues from the Old Vic and Hammersmith in London. It draws talent from around the world.

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The Old Vic has co-produced recently with the Abbey Theatre (Yui Mok/PA).

Mr Murray said: “The idea that we suddenly have to work in a completely different way to make this happen is a ridiculous challenge and almost a false challenge, we have to fight incredibly hard to protect that.”

The Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement between Ireland and the UK is unrelated to the EU and allows free movement of nationals across the Irish border and from Great Britain as well as employment rights.

A conference in Belfast organised by actors’ union Equity raised the prospect of new and ever-increasing visa fees for artists wanting to work elsewhere as a result of the separation.

Mr Murray moved from a theatre in the UK to the Abbey.

He said: “I moved to Ireland two and a half years ago to work in a national and international theatre company with colleagues in Ireland, both south and north, as well as retaining connection with colleagues in the UK.

“I am determined that whatever happens the Abbey has a key role, particularly on the island of Ireland to ensure that we advocate collaboration and that we fight as hard as we can to ensure that the Abbey remains a presence, both in Dublin and up here in Belfast.”

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Karan O’Loughlin, from the Irish Equity union, said a no-deal Brexit would be devastating for the theatre industry in Northern Ireland and the Republic (Brian Lawless/PA).

Irish Equity said a no-deal Brexit would be devastating for the theatre industry in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Karan O’Loughlin, from the trade union, said: “A no-deal Brexit would be absolutely catastrophic for people.”

Their members often collaborate on productions across both parts of the island.

She added: “No-deal means restrictions on travel and freedom to work, it reduces diversity in work and creates funding difficulties for co-productions, and reduces the capacity for people to work and create.”

The seminar organised by acting unions in the UK and Ireland was held at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast on Friday.

Ms O’Loughlin added: “I think that is incredibly poor and irresponsible of the British Government to keep this ongoing farcical situation where everybody lives with uncertainty.

“Uncertainty is as bad as a bad Brexit.”

Chloe Alexander, policy development officer at Equity UK, said a no-deal Brexit could mean an absence of arrangements for workers in the UK to work on mainland Europe other than Ireland.

“That would be disastrous for a lot of members who have a good chunk of their incomes from work on the EU.

“It would also mean there would be no transition so there would be no time for the industry to adjust to the new circumstances plus we would be out of all the funding bodies that play such an important part.”

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