Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

For those who aren’t sure what “We’re At…” actually is, I’ll yoink the following sentence from their Facebook as it succinctly sums them up; “We’re At…” is an exciting new community media initiative about to take part in the heart of Temple Bar. Using a fully digital, state of the art pop up TV studio in a shop front at 5 Scarlett Row, Dublin Community TV is going to throw itself into covering the roaring arts and culture festival circuit that takes over the city during the summer months.”

Come celebrate the launch of We're At....

To celebrate the launch of the show, the crew of “We’re At…” are  teaming up with the IDGTF to bring you an early evening of performances from some of the star performers at this years festival.

Its a once off event, and a chance to have a gander at what’s going on at the IDGTF. Looks like a great evening, I’ve taken quite a liking to O’Byrnes, great pints of Guinness for €4 on the button, can’t go wrong. Might see yiz there.

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While historically, and perhaps understandably, The Abbey Theatre takes centre stage in this city, mainly because of it’s connections with Synge, Yeats and O’Casey and their associations with the 1916 Rebellion, its sometimes easy to forget that there are, and were a plethora of other theatres, not only The Gaiety, The Olympia, The Gate, but a long list of many more.
I came across the picture below, of a building on the corner of Poolbeg Street and Hawkins’ Street with a stone columned pallisade and cast iron and glass canopy while flicking through the excellent dublin.ie forum recently. It started me thinking about the recent publishing by the Dublin City Council of images of Dublin’s vanishing and forgotten features (see JayCarax’s piece on that here ) and about actually how much of this city has been erased. Streets, buildings and sites of archaeological significance were destroyed; eradicated in the name of progress without thought of their value, socially and historically, to future generations.

The Theatre Royal Hippodrome, Credit to Cosmo on dublin.ie for the picture

One such building is the Theatre Royale Hippodrome/ Winter Gardens on Hawkins’ Street. The only reason I know of its existence is because of a flash of interest when I first saw the picture above, did a quick search and found the poster below. Dating from 1919, these were turbulent times in Dublin. The Declaration of Independence was declared at the 21st January assembly of Dáil Eireann, and hostilities in the War of Independence began on the same day with Dan Breen and Seán Treacy’s attack on two RIC constables who were escorting explosives in Soloheadbeag, Co. Tipperary.

The Evening Telegraph front page, from the morning of January 22nd, 1919

There is not too much information on the Theatre Royal Hippodrome available. It is known that there were four in existence; the first was on the site of the still running “Smock Alley” theatre, the second on Hawkins Street, (the site of the image above,) where it ran until it burned to the ground in 1880. This theatre re-opened in 1897 with a capacity of 2, 300 (compare this to the Olympia, which nowadays holds 1, 100) and ran until 1934 when it was demolished and replaced by the fourth theatre which opened in 1935 and ran until 1962. The picture is estimated to be from around 1906/ 07, which suggests it is from the third incarnation of the Theatre.

Poster for the Theatre Royal Hippodrome for 16th June 1919, credit to Matthew from http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk for permission to reproduce here.

Two events stood out for me in reading about the theatre. The first was Charlie Chaplin’s appearance here as a young man in 1906 as part of an act called The Eight Lancashire Lads (1.) The second was the attempted assassination of British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith here on July 19th 1912, not by Irish Revolutionaries but by militant English Suffragettes (2.) Their first attempt involved a hatchet thrown at him by one woman as his carriage passed the GPO on O’Connell Street. While it missed him, she did succeed in striking John Redmond, the nationalist leader. The second involved three women who attempted to set fire to the Theatre as Asquith was about to speak.

The Irish Times report stated:

Sergeant Cooper, accompanied by his wife and Colour-Sergeant and Mrs Shea, was sitting in the dress circle of the theatre. About a quarter to nine, when the performance had concluded and the people were going out, he saw a flame in the back seat, just in front of the cinematograph box.

With the presence of mind that one should expect in a soldier, he rushed to the place, and found that the carpet was saturated with oil and ablaze. He and Colour-Sergeant Shea beat the fire out with their mackintoshes. Just as they had succeeded in this, under the seat there was an explosion, which filled the dress circle with smoke.

At this moment Sergeant Cooper saw a young woman standing near. She was lighting matches. Opening the door of the cinematograph box, she threw in a lighted match, and then tried to escape. But she was caught by Sergeant Cooper and held by him. She is stated to have then said: “There will be a few more explosions in the second house. This is only the start of it.”

From the Irish Times archive.

From the posters, I get the feeling that the Theatre was the anti- thesis of the Abbey which stood a mere 100 yards away as the crow flies, albeit the other side of the River Liffey. An advertisement which I have been unable to reproduce (but can be seen here on the arthurlloyd.co.uk website) has the adage “God Save the King”  amid advertisements for “Hammam Turkish Baths, Sackville Street” and open daily “Winter Gardens” serving “Teas, coffees and light refreshments,” delights the majority of Dubliners at that time could only dream about.

As far as I know, nothing remains of the Theatre Royal Hippodrome today. From the photograph above (and from deductions that the construction work in the background was the construction of he Sheehan Memorial on Burgh Quay,) its been worked out that the National Aviation Authority  stands on the site formerly occupied by it. There is now a housing scheme off Pearse Street named after the Winter Gardens, but searches for more information have thrown up little more than (apart from advertisements for apartments for sale and to let,) the poster above, the picture of the Hippodrome, the Irish Times article and a brief history of the theatre in a book called “Dear, Dirty Dublin: A City in Distress.” Published in 1982, this book has a great paragraph on the Gaelic Leagues denunciation of the demise of Irish culture as a product of the hegemony of imported English popular culture. While in the early twentieth century, the Abbey Theatre put paid to the notion that Irish culture was condemned to obsucurity, the book also has a great quote from Padraig Pearse as he proclaimed the Dublin of his day held:

Nothing but Guinness porter. Her contribution to the world’s civilisation (3.)

Due in part to some of the works that have made their debuts in The Abbey Theatre, Dublin has proven itself to have contributed more than just Guinness porter to the world. Who knows how much more we could have contributed if sites of historical and cultural relevence such as the Theatre Royal and the Viking Settlement at Wood Quay not half a mile down the same side of the river weren’t trampled on and replaced by drab, dour, and most importantly “conventional” buildings.


(1.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_Royal,_Dublin

(2.) http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0719/1224275016332.html

(3.) Dear, Dirty Dublin: A City in Distress by Joseph V. O’Brien, Page 23. Can be read here.

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 16 years, you will most definitely have heard about the annual Absolut Fringe Festival. In those 16 years, it has grown from humble begininnings to become Ireland most exciting multidisciplinary festival covering all walks of culture; music, art, literature and performance.

Spanning over two- and- a- bit weeks, and visiting over twenty venues, the festival is ambitious in it’s enormity, but then again, why shouldn’t it be going on the successes of the last couple of years.  While it would be close to impossible to list a full programme here ( you can check that out on the official website @ www.fringefest.com , or alternatively pick up the free guide from cafés and bookshops citywide,) below are some of the events I hope to attend, and suprise suprise, they’re Dublin-centric.

As You Are Now, So Once Were We

As You Are Now So Once Were We, The Company

Blurb from the fringefest site:

“Why haven’t you read Ulysses? Ulysses is Dublin. You live in Dublin. So do we. Four actors in a city we don’t really know pick up the most important and unread book in Irish history and follow James Joyce as he invents a whole city and its people. Returning to this year’s Festival with the Spirit of the Fringe 2009 award for ‘Who is Fergus Kilpatrick?’, The Company are back to delve into Joyce’s seminal work and ask – where are you in this story? Join us as we rediscover what it means to be Irish. By the way, we haven’t read Ulysses either… yet. The Company are part of Project Catalyst, an initiative of Project Arts Centre.”


Having laboured my way through Ulysees in my UCD days, I’m interested to see what the good folks from The Company make of it. The questions of nationhood and identity always stood out in the book, and this show looks set to examine both.

The Project Arts  Centre Space Upstairs, Sat 11th – Wed 15th, 9pm, €14/12

World’s End Lane

World's End Lane, Anu Productions

Blurb from the fringefest site:

“For over 100 years, Monto was the most notorious red light district in Europe. Presided over by infamous Madams and fortune-tellers, lost strangers sought sex, guidance and the divine. You and I will be the strangers. Immerse yourself in a fragile and intimate encounter, exhuming an area of Dublin that no longer exists, as presented by the multi-award winning company that brought you last year’s festival favourite, ‘Basin’. Presented in association with The Lab. Supported by Rough Magic Hub.”


Monto; An area sung about in a thousand songs and the backdrop for a hundred thousand stories of woe and debauchery, lonliness and violence, intrigue and legend. Some say that a branch of the current Monarchy flourishes in Dublin City due a night on the town by a British prince here in the late 19th Century. It is written into revolutionary lore as it’s many brothels and slums were used as safehouses in the period 1916- 22. In World’s End Lane, we get a unique look at this unique period in Dublin’s past.

The Lab,  Foley Street, Mon 13th- Sat 25th, (times can be found here ,) €15.

The Hidden Garden

The Hidden Garden, Garvan Gallagher Photography

Blurb from the fringefest site:

“‘It’s like going to mass’ is how one local resident describes her time in one of the most charming and unlikely secret retreats in the city. This uplifting film maps the transformation of an urban dumping ground in the North Inner City into a vibrant community growing space. Winter surrenders to spring as the characters and the space come to life while the goodwill and honest nature of the local residents spill out like the cups of tea poured in their hundreds. As informative as it is inspirational, don’t miss the chance to see this heart-warming film screened in The Hidden Garden. Arrive early if you’d like to potter around the garden!”


Whilst over the last couple of years, developers have tried to rid us of any green spaces we have in the inner city, there has been a struggle within some local communities to take back some peace and tranquility. With inner- city community spirit diminishing as office and retail developments push people into the suburbs, projects like the Summer Row Community Garden are to be applauded.

Summer Row Community Garden, Summer St. North. Thurs 23rd – Sat 25th, 8.30pm, €8.


All details, blurbs and pictures (apart from my own interjections of course) are taken from the excellently informative www.fringefest.com . For up to date information, tickets and more details, check it out.

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Whilst very tempted to write a review of Colm McPhersons “The Seafarer” that just gave it five stars and said “go see it and you’ll understand why,” I do understand reviews don’t work like that so I‘ve bulked it up a little. But I mean it; before I even start the review, that’s exactly what I feel like saying; go see it and you‘ll understand.

Under the advice of a good friend, and having just written an article on the history of the Hellfire Club, one slow Saturday afternoon in January, six of us headed along to a matinee showing of a play said to be inspired by the tale of the Bucks on Montpellier Hill, when Beelzebub himself showed up during a late night game of cards, and upon losing, stamped his hoof on the floor and took off. (That mark, according to local superstitious types, can still be seen today.)

The Seafarer

The Seafarer, from last years run at An Grianán.

Captivating from the start, the story, the characters and the actors that portray them are so… familiar. Bleak, but uproariously funny, there’s a comedy in the dark, unfolding drama and maybe it’s comedy that only the Irish can understand. For while I found it hard to retain my laughter at times, as did most of the audience, half of our company were not from this Island and thought we were sick, or mad, or both, to be laughing at the despair portrayed on stage. McPherson even admitted this himself, saying Irish audiences would understand the play better than those in London or New York.

Set in Baldoyle, but namedropping an expanse of Dublin streets and pubs, the plot centres around the return of Sharkey (Liam Carney) to Dublin at Christmas time to the house his newly-visually-impaired brother Richard (Maelíosa Stafford) inherited from their parents.  Chaotic from the start, Richard and pal Ivan (Don Wycherly) test Sharkey’s patience to the limit as he tries to stay off the drink for a third consecutive day, as they nurse the mother of all hangovers, sneakily tucking into a bottle Gold Label for breakfast. I can’t compliment Don Wycherly’s performance enough; I spent most of the play watching him rather than what was going on on-stage as he stayed in character for the full three hours. Ivan is the epitomy of the lovable Irish scally- Disheveled, simple, nervous, good natured and an out-and-out alcoholic. I’d do him an injustice to describe him as any more than that; what he does on stage is just… madcap, hilarious and truly brilliant. 

The story unfolds as Sharkey’s past unravels, and it’s with the arrival of Nicky (Played by Phelim Drew, son of a hero of ours here at CHTM, Ronnie,) and Mr. Lockhart (Nick Dunning) that we get the real story about Sharkey, an alcoholic, a “Useless Eegit” whose life has been “nothing more than a series of fuck-ups” but who has “Potential” according to his loving brother Richard. As they start into their annual game of poker, and the ante’s get higher and higher, Mr. Lockhart reveals himself to Sharkey as the devil, come to claim his soul, having been beaten by Sharkey before, he doesn’t intend to get beaten again. 

The play takes a sidelong glance at the Irish relationship with alcohol, our begrudgery and our inability to share problems. And though the overriding mood of the play is bleak, dark and disparaging, the wit and feelings of hope and redemption win through, and as they say, hope springs, and you do walk out of the play with a smile on your face.

I’ll finish as I started and say go see this play, it runs until January 30th in the Abbey and tickets start at €25.

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