Toy Show the Musical staff paid ‘below industry standard’, playwright says

Broadcaster says production offered ‘well-paid employment for more than 100 talented theatre makers’

Toy Show The Musical. Photograph: Ste Murray

A playwright who worked on RTÉ's production of Toy Show the Musical last year has said creative staff were paid “below industry standard”, according to correspondence to the Dáil spending watchdog.

The musical, which ran for the first time last December, had to cancel a number of its shows due to illness among the cast and ticket sales underperforming.

Lisa Tierney-Keogh, a playwright who worked on the musical, wrote to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) earlier this month to criticise the contracts given to staff working on the musical.

She said she felt there had been “a number of discrepancies” in a briefing on the musical provided to the committee by RTÉ, including the suggestion that creative workers were well paid.


“We were not. In fact, the contracts negotiated were below industry standard,” she wrote in a May 16th email.

The committee had previously queried with the broadcaster how much RTÉ had spent on the project.

Ms Tierney-Keogh said she had read her name in a briefing provided to the committee by RTÉ, which listed creative staff who worked on the project. “I felt compelled to write to you as I can no longer remain silent, especially if my name is mentioned in a document with the PAC,” the playwright said.

A spokesman for RTÉ said the broadcaster was “pleased to create the opportunity of well-paid employment for more than 100 talented theatre makers” through the show. He said the production came after a period of Covid-19 lockdowns where the creative industry and artists’ incomes had been “decimated”.

“In contracting all of the creative team, cast and crew, RTÉ took advice and engaged the services of experienced producers and others from the world of theatre. Contracts with individuals were negotiated and agreed by both parties,” he said.

RTÉ previously told an Oireachtas media committee the project “didn’t sell as many tickets as we wanted”, but that it intends to continue the musical again this year.

A briefing RTÉ previously provided to the public accounts committee similarly stated audiences were “lower than we had hoped for”. It said having to cancel several shows “had a big impact on audience numbers”, as well as affecting “sentiment and word of mouth about the show over the Christmas period”.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times