Wednesday 21 March 2018

Colgan managed Gate Theatre by fury and threats, says review

Michael Colgan
Michael Colgan

Former artistic director Michael Colgan is alleged to have "a case to answer" when it comes to his behaviour during his lengthy tenure at the Gate Theatre.

A hard-hitting independent report by workplace relations expert Gaye Cunningham has claimed he "managed by fury and threats and fear" and that a culture of "bullying" prevailed.

It stated that he used profane language and at times called women c**ts and made young female staff cry, then tell them: "I'm glad you cried, that shows you care."

The same report alleges that he "put himself in too close proximity to staff", asked personal questions, rubbed backs and put his hand on people's knees.

Colgan, who worked at the northside theatre for 33 years, also made comments of a sexual nature to actresses, the 22-page document has claimed.

Some of those interviewed for the report said that a culture evolved over the years of an "omnipotent ruler" who did not like to be challenged.

He would drop people from invitation lists if they fell out of favour with him, and was described by some as being "vindictive and vengeful".

The report also claimed that he regularly told people "you won't work in this industry again" and that some freelancers, including actors and directors, were "struck off the list" and not engaged again by the Gate.


Colgan has "strongly rejected" these allegations and said that it was not a case of "tip of the iceberg" where further claims may be made.

In his right to reply contained in the report, he denies shouting at staff and said his job needed someone with a "big personality". "Actors are full of ego and when you don't give them a job, they take it personally," he stated.

However, he said he regrets not putting a process in place for dealing with any complaints and accepted he should have had a code of ethics and rules of conduct in place at the theatre.

Ms Cunningham interviewed 56 people for her report, including eight current and former board of management members.

It was initiated after a number of women came forward with allegations at the end of last year. It concluded that he had a "case to answer" in relation to dignity at work issues, abuse of power and inappropriate behaviour.

The Gate is now under new management, but the report contains 14 recommendations for it, including comprehensive training for all managers.

In a statement, the venue reiterated its "unreserved apology" to those who experienced behaviour detailed in the review.

Chairman Peter Crowley said he acknowledged the board had an onus to be more aware of the culture prevailing in the theatre over time, and it would implement Ms Cunningham's recommendations in full.

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