Smock Alley restored to its original use, offering another cultural venue in Temple Bar.

I recently attended a preview of Pan Pan Theatres’ contemporary adaptation of Ibsens A Doll’s House which also marked the reopening of Smock Alley Theatre.

A Doll’s House first premiered at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 21 December 1879. The play was controversial when first published, as it criticised the traditional roles of men and women in 19th-century marriages. The play revolves around Nora an attractive young mother who during her husband’s Torvald’s life threatening illness borrowed money from a disgraced lawyer, which required her to forge her dead father’s signature. Nora told her husband the money was left to her by her deceased father. Now recovered Torvald is about to take up a new job as assistant manager in a bank. With a big salary Norah finally believes all their troubles will be over and she will finally be able to rid herself of this awful debt. But things get very complicated when Torvald decides to fire the disgraced lawyer now working at the bank.

Some years ago I worked on the Second Age production of A Doll’s House so it was very interesting to see Pan Pan Theatre  ‘Doll House‘ perform this contemporary version which I enjoyed and Judith Roddy put in a fantastic performance as Nora. It easy to see how this play continues to be performed and interest its audience more than 100 years later.

Written by Henrik Ibsen, Directed by Gavin Quinn, Set & Lighting Design by Aedín Cosgrove, Costume Design by Bruno Schwengl,

Cast: Charlie Bonner, Pauline Hutton, Dermot Magennis, Aine Ní Mhuirí, Daniel Reardon and Judith Roddy.

Performance Times:
4th, 5th, 6th , 7th & 9th April (Previews), 10th – 28th April – 8pm

Pan Pan show is called ‘Doll House’ performed in the newly opened Smock Alley – the 177 seater in its 3 sided configuration. With much of the old stone and brickwork still visible, the tiered seating is constructed from a combination of white oak/ash, birch plywood with green leather seating, creating a very pleasing environment with excellent acoustics.

The building was taken in charge by Smock Alley Theatre Ltd, and was granted permission by An Bord Pleanála to reinstate the theatre. Smock Alley was awarded a total of €3.8 million in grants from the Arts Council in 2006 and 2007 for the redevelopment. A series of fund raising events raised another €400,000. In June of this year Temple Bar Cultural Trust approved a loan of €300,000 and a guarantee of €350,000 to Smock Alley Theatre. Under the Stewardship of Patrick Sutton, who is also director of the Gaiety School of Acting, it is fantastic to see this building so steeped in history and culture restored to its original use.

© Tom Dowling 2012

Alice in Funderland is currently on at The Abbey Theatre please read Caroline Farrell’s post on it.

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The History of Smock Alley (compiled and edited from online information)

The Smock Alley was the first Theatre Royal built in Dublin. John Ogilby opened it in 1662 It was the first custom-built theatre in the Dublin built on land reclaimed from the Liffey the building was unstable and the gallery collapsed twice, being rebuilt in1735. In the mid 1740’s Thomas Sheridan took on the role of manager of Smock Alley and made many improvements to it. While it was in operation as a theatre, it gave the world the plays of George Farquhar, Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and the brilliant performances of Peg Woffington, Thomas Sheridan, Spranger Barry and Charles Macklin. It was on this stage that David Garrick, the greatest actor of the 18th century, first played Hamlet.

The theatre closed in 1787 the building was then used as a whiskey store until Fr Michael Blake bought it to set a church that would work between 1811 and 1815. When the bell tolled in 1811, 18 years before the Catholic Emancipation; this was the first Catholic bell ringing in Dublin in nearly 300 years. The boasts ornate stained glass windows and the original ceiling plasterwork remain in the Smock Alley as a witness of this time. St Michael and John’s Church currently occupies the site of the theatre but the original walls are intact and the basement has remained virtually untouched in the last 400.

In 1989, the church was deconsecrated due to falling numbers of parishioners. It was then redeveloped into the ‘Viking Adventure’, as part of the Temple Bar rejuvenation scheme, closing down in 2002.

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I was involved in the production of the Viking Adventure and was very disappointed it never managed to take off. However happy to see Smock Alley restored to its original use, offering  another cultural venue in Temple Bar.

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