The Abbey Theatre, also known as the National Theatre of Ireland, is a theatre located in Dublin, Ireland. The Abbey first opened its doors to the public on 27 December 1904. Despite losing its original building to a fire in 1951, it has remained active to the present day. The Abbey was the first state-subsidized theatre in the English-speaking World; from 1925 onwards it received an annual subsidy from the Irish Free State. Since July 1966, the Abbey has been located at 26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.
A theatre or circus has stood on this site on Lower Abbey Street since at least the early 19th century. In the mid-19th century, at the urging of Dublin's gentry, John Classon, an upper-class merchant, acquired the buildings then on the site, one of which had housed a circus, in order to establish a joint concert hall and civic institution for the lower classes. The Music Hall, which could seat 4000 persons, in addition to hosting concerts, frequently hosted popular variety entertainments like Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal. In the late 19th Century the Music Hall was renamed the Mechanics' Theatre, after the adjacent Mechanics' Institute. The theatre was also known during this time as the Hibernian Theatre of Varieties, a name it retained until the building was acquired for Abbey Theatre at the beginning of the 20th Century.