More than 300 members of the Irish theatre community have signed a letter expressing "deep concern and dissatisfaction" with what they describe as the direction the Abbey Theatre has taken under its directors Neil Murray and Graham McLaren.

The group claimed that fewer in-house productions, and the practice of presenting or co-presenting productions, had caused "devastation".

The group, who described themselves as theatre practitioners, said it had resulted in less diversity and reduced employment.

It said there will not have been an Ireland-based actor in an Abbey Theatre production on an Abbey stage between September 2018 and 23 February 2019.

The group asked that the Abbey engage in a greater percentage of in-house productions, as opposed to co-productions or buy-ins.

It said that the situation that the Irish theatre community finds itself in is now "critical".

"The numbers are stark and are worth stating," their letter stated.

"In 2016, the Abbey directly employed 123 actors in Abbey productions and 90 actors in readings and workshops.

"Then, in 2017, the Abbey directly employed only 56 actors.

"Though the casting and employment statistics have been removed from the Abbey website, an approximate calculation for 2018 is 65 actors employed directly by the Abbey.

"In a theatre founded by writers and actors it is profoundly worrying that there is no commitment to sustaining that community."

Among those to sign the letter were Aidan Gillen, Aoibhínn McGinnity, Cathy Belton, Charlene McKenna, Ciarán Hinds, Ger Ryan, Hilda Fay, Lorcan Cranitch, Owen Roe, Pat Laffan, Rory Nolan, Ruth Negga and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.

In a statement responding to the letter, the Theatre said it is taking the concerns raised "very seriously".

It said that between 8 September 2018 and 23 February 2019 there are 78 Irish actors in employment either directly or with co-producing partners both on Abbey stages and touring.

The theatre said there are 51 Irish or Irish-based actors on Abbey and Peacock Stages, with an additional 17 on tour.

It said it has huge respect for the artists who signed the letter, and would be inviting representatives of the signatories to meet over the concerns.

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan said she had received the letter and acknowledged the concerns that were raised.