Theatre Royal, Dublin

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The Smock Alley theatre, Dublin, on the site of the first Theatre Royal Smock Alley Theatre Dublin.JPG
The Smock Alley theatre, Dublin, on the site of the first Theatre Royal

Over the centuries, there have been five theatres in Dublin called the Theatre Royal.

Dublin Capital of Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. Situated on a bay on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it lies within the province of Leinster. It is bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region as of 2016 was 1,347,359. The population of the Greater Dublin Area was 1,904,806 per the 2016 census.


In the history of the theatre in Great Britain and Ireland, the designation "Theatre Royal", or "Royal Theatre", once meant that a theatre had been granted a royal patent, without which "serious drama" theatrical performances were not permitted by law. Many such theatres had other names.

Great Britain Island in the North Atlantic off the northwest coast of continental Europe

Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

The patent theatres were the theatres that were licensed to perform "spoken drama" after the Restoration of Charles II as King of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1660. Other theatres were prohibited from performing such "serious" drama, but were permitted to show comedy, pantomime or melodrama. Drama was also interspersed with singing or dancing, to prevent the whole being too serious or dramatic.

The first Theatre Royal

The first Theatre Royal was opened by John Ogilby in 1662 in Smock Alley. Ogilby, who was the first Irish Master of the Revels, had previously run the New Theatre in Werburgh Street. This was the first custom-built theatre in the city. It opened in 1637 but was closed by the Puritans in 1641. The Restoration of the monarchy in Ireland in 1661 enabled Ogilby to resume his position as Master of the Revels and open his new venture.

Smock Alley Theatre theatre in Dublin, Ireland

Since the 17th century there have been numerous theatres in Dublin with the name of Smock Alley.

John Ogilby Scottish academic

John Ogilby was a Scottish translator, impresario and cartographer. Best known for publishing the first British road atlas, he was also a successful translator, noted for publishing his work in handsome illustrated editions.

The Master of the Revels was the holder of a position within the English, and later the British, royal household, heading the "Revels Office" or "Office of the Revels". The Master of the Revels was an executive officer under the Lord Chamberlain. Originally he was responsible for overseeing royal festivities, known as revels, and he later also became responsible for stage censorship, until this function was transferred to the Lord Chamberlain in 1624. However, Henry Herbert, the deputy Master of the Revels and later the Master, continued to perform the function on behalf of the Lord Chamberlain until the English Civil War in 1642, when stage plays were prohibited. The office continued almost until the end of the 18th century, although with rather reduced status.

This Theatre Royal was essentially under the control of the administration in Dublin Castle and staged mainly pro-Stuart works and Shakespearean classics.

Dublin Castle Irish government complex and historical castle site in central Dublin

Dublin Castle is a major Irish government complex, conference centre, and tourist attraction. It is located off Dame Street in Dublin.

House of Stuart European royal house

The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a European royal house of Scotland with Breton origin. They had held the office of High Steward of Scotland since Walter fitz Alan. The royal Stewart line was founded by Robert II whose descendants were kings and queens of Scotland from 1371 until the union with England in 1707. Mary, Queen of Scots was brought up in France where she adopted the French spelling of the name Stuart.

William Shakespeare 16th and 17th-century English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

In 1662 Katherine Philips went to Dublin to pursue her husband's claim to certain Irish estates; there she completed a translation of Pierre Corneille's Pompée , produced with great success in 1663 in the Smock Alley Theatre, and printed in the same year both in Dublin and London. Although other women had translated or written dramas, her translation of Pompey broke new ground as the first rhymed version of a French tragedy in English and the first English play written by a woman to be performed on the professional stage.

Katherine Philips Anglo-Welsh poet and translator

Katherine or Catherine Philips, also known as "The Matchless Orinda", was an Anglo-Welsh royalist poet, translator, and woman of letters. She achieved renown as a translator of Pierre Corneille's Pompée and Horace, and for her editions of poetry after her death. She was highly regarded by many writers of 17th century literature, including John Dryden and John Keats, as being influential.

Pierre Corneille French tragedian

Pierre Corneille was a French tragedian. He is generally considered one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine.

<i>The Death of Pompey</i> play

The Death of Pompey is a tragedy by the French playwright Pierre Corneille on the death of Pompey the Great. It was first performed in 1642, with Julius Caesar played by Molière. Like many of Corneille's plays, it is noted for the high tones of its heroine, Cornelia, who admits that her enemy is noble and generous but warns him when he releases her that she will continue to seek his death.

In the 18th century, the theatre was managed for a time by the actor-manager Thomas Sheridan, father of playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Thomas Sheridan managed to attract major stars of the London stage, including David Garrick and the Dublin-born Peg Woffington. Charlotte Melmoth, later to become 'The Grande Dame of Tragedy on the American Stage' began her acting career at Smock Alley. [1] The theatre was demolished and rebuilt in 1735 and closed in 1787, falling into dereliction and used as a warehouse for almost 30 years.

Thomas Sheridan (actor) Irish stage actor and educator

Thomas Sheridan was an Irish stage actor, an educator, and a major proponent of the elocution movement. He received his M.A. in 1743 from Trinity College in Dublin, and was the godson of Jonathan Swift. He also published a "respelled" dictionary of the English language (1780). He was married (1747) to Frances Chamberlaine. His son was the better known Richard Brinsley Sheridan, while his daughters were also writers - Alicia, a playwright, and Betsy Sheridan a diarist. His work is very noticeable in the writings of Hugh Blair.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan Irish-British politician, playwright and writer

Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan was an Irish satirist, a playwright, poet, and long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He is known for his plays such as The Rivals, The School for Scandal, The Duenna, and A Trip to Scarborough. He was also a Whig MP for 32 years in the British House of Commons for Stafford (1780–1806), Westminster (1806–1807), and Ilchester (1807–1812). He is buried at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. His plays remain a central part of the canon and are regularly performed worldwide.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

In 1811 part of the 18th century structure demolished, and what survived was incorporated into the new Church of St. Michael and St. Johns, which remained as one of the most popular Catholic churches in the city centre until 1989. In 2012, after 6 years of building work, the 19th century church building was converted for use as a theatre. The new theatre is home to the Gaiety School of Acting, The National Theatre School of Ireland. [2]

The second Theatre Royal

Crow Street Theatre was opened by Spranger Barry in 1758. [3] The lovers Mary Bulkley and James William Dodd played here in 1774. [4] In 1782 the actor Richard Daly became its owner, and in 1786, having obtained a patent from the Crown, he opened the theatre in 1788 as the Theatre Royal. £12,000 had been spent on rebuilding and decoration. It was profitable for a while, but later suffered from the opening of Astley's Amphitheatre [5] [6]

Frederick Edward Jones leased the theatre from Daly, and spent £1200 on renovating the house, which was decorated by Marinari and Zaffarini. It was opened in 1796, but closed when martial law was declared, relating to the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Jones obtained a new royal patent in 1798, and spent a further £5000 on the theatre, but in the political climate it had to close in 1803. [7]

The theatre was wrecked in a riot of 1814; and there were further riots in 1819. Jones attributed his unpopularity to his being active in politics; in 1807 he had supported the election of an anti-ministerial member of parliament for Dublin. His application in 1818 for renewal of the patent was refused, being granted instead to Henry Harris, a proprietor of Covent Garden Theatre. [7] [8]

The third Theatre Royal

In 1820, Henry Harris bought a site in Hawkins Street and built the 2,000-seater Albany New Theatre on it at a cost of £50,000, designed by architect Samuel Beazley. [9] This theatre opened in January of the following year. In August, George IV attended a performance at the Albany and, as a consequence, a patent was granted. The name of the theatre was changed to the "Theatre Royal" to reflect its status as a patent theatre. The building work was not completed at the time of opening and early audience figures were so low that a number of side seating boxes were boarded up. On 14 December 1822, the Bottle Riot occurred during a performance of She Stoops to Conquer attended by the Lord Lieutenant, Marquess Wellesley: Orangemen angered by Wellesley's conciliation of Catholics jeered him during the national anthem, and a riot ensued after a bottle was thrown at him. Wellesley's overreaction, including charging three rioters with attempted murder, undermined his own credibility. [10] [11]

In 1830, Harris retired from the theatre and a Mr Calcraft took on the lease. This theatre attracted a number of famous performers, including Paganini, Jenny Lind, Tyrone Power and Barry Sullivan. By 1851, the theatre was experiencing financial problems and closed briefly. It reopened in December under John Harris, who had been manager of the rival Queen's Theatre. The first production under Harris was a play by Dion Boucicault. Boucicault and his wife were to make their first Dublin personal appearances in the Royal in 1861 in his The Colleen Bawn. The first performance of Boucicault's play Arrah-na-Pogue was held at the theatre in 1864, with Boucicault, Samuel Johnson, John Brougham and Samuel Anderson Emery in the cast. [12]

This theatre burned to the ground on 9 February 1880.

The fourth Theatre Royal

Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street, Dublin (26237303981).jpg
Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street

The fourth Theatre Royal opened on 13 December 1897 by the actor-manager Frederick Mouillot with the assistance of a group of Dublin businessmen. The theatre was designed by Frank Matcham and built on the site of the Leinster Hall theatre, which in turn had been built on the site of the third Theatre Royal. It had seating for an audience of 2,011 people.

This new theatre found itself in competition with the Gaiety Theatre, which prompted Mouillot to try to attract as many big name stars and companies as possible. At first, the theatre was noted for its opera and musical comedy productions. On 28 April 1904, Edward VII attended a state performance at the theatre.

Mouillot died in 1911 and one of his partners, David Tellford took over the running of the theatre. As musical comedy went out of fashion in the early years of the 20th century, the Royal started to stage music hall shows on a regular basis. In one such show in 1906, a young Charlie Chaplin performed as part of an act called The Eight Lancashire Lads. In its final years, the Theatre was also used as a cinema. It closed on 3 March 1934 and demolished soon after.

Theatre poster from 1916 Pastomimes - Robinson Crusoe (the Pantomime Hero).jpg
Theatre poster from 1916

The fifth Theatre Royal

1960s image of the Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street Theatre Royal Hawkins Street Dublin 1960s (6898594718).jpg
1960s image of the Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street

The fifth Theatre Royal opened on 23 September 1935 in Hawkins Street. It was a large art deco building designed for an audience of 3,700 people seated and 300 standing, and was intended for use as both theatre and cinema. It also housed the Regal Rooms Restaurant (converted into the Regal Rooms Cinema in 1938). The theatre had a resident 25-piece orchestra under the direction of Jimmy Campbell and a troupe of singer-dancers, the Royalettes. From the beginning, the sheer size of the building made it difficult for the Royal to remain economically viable. The policy adopted at first to confront this problem was to book big-name stars from overseas to fill the building. These included Gracie Fields, George Formby, Max Wall, Max Miller and Jimmy Durante. However these shows rarely made a profit.

In 1936, the Royal was acquired by Patrick Wall and Louis Elliman, who also owned the Gaiety. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Wall and Elliman were forced to keep the two theatres going with native talent only. This led to the emergence of a raft of Irish acts who were to provide the mainstay of the Royal's output for the remainder of its existence. These included such Irish household names as Jimmy O'Dea, Harry O'Donovan, Maureen Potter, Danny Cummins, Mike Nolan, Alice Dalgarno, Noel Purcell, Micheál MacLiammoir, Cecil Sheridan, Jack Cruise, Paddy Crosbie and Patricia Cahill. In July 1951 Judy Garland appeared for a series of sold out performances and was received with tremendous ovations. The legendary singer sang from her dressing room window to hundreds of people who were unable to get tickets and critics dubbed her "America's Colleen". She drew the largest crowds up until that time and was only surpassed by the visits to Ireland of United States President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Pope John Paul II in 1979. Popular Irish American entertainer Carmel Quinn also made her singing debut here during the early 1950s. Under pressure from rising overheads and the increasing popularity of the cinema and the introduction of television, the fifth Theatre Royal, Dublin closed its doors on 30 June 1962. The building was subsequently demolished and replaced by a twelve-storey office block, Hawkins House, headquarters of Ireland's Department of Health.

In 1972 The New Metropole, opened on the corner of Hawkins Street and Townsend Street on the site of the The Regal Rooms. It operated as the Screen Cinema from 1984 until 2016. [13] The building was demolished in 2019.

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  1. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians (Vol 10)
  2. See
  3. Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1885). "Barry, Spranger"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 3. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 327.
  4. Saunders's News-Letter, Monday 30 May 1774 p1 col3: Dublin, June 1st, New garden
  5. Lee, Sidney, ed. (1897). "Ryder, Thomas (1735-1790)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 50. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 49–50.
  6. Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1888). "Daly, Richard"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 13. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 439–440.
  7. 1 2 Lee, Sidney, ed. (1892). "Jones, Frederick Edward"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 30. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 101–102.
  8. "Jones, Frederick Edward". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15002.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  9. Earl, John & Sell, Michael: Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950 (Theatres Trust, 2000), pp. 268; ISBN   0-7136-5688-3.
  10. Dean, Joan Fitzpatrick (29 April 2010). Riot and Great Anger: Stage Censorship in Twentieth-Century Ireland. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 23–24. ISBN   9780299196646 . Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  11. Jenkins, Brian (1988). Era of Emancipation: British Government of Ireland, 1812-1830. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. pp. 185–6. ISBN   9780773561731 . Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  12. "Samuel Johnson c.1830-1900 A Life from the Grave, by Jennie Bisset". The Irving Society. November 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013.