The Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street, Dublin, Ireland
Introduction - First Theatre - Second Theatre - Theatre Royal Hippodrome - Third Theatre - History of the Theatre Royal (1935) - History of the Theatre Royal (1874) - The Theatre Royal's Frank Matcham Staircase - Mulligan's Public House - Fred Midgley, Musician
Above - The Original 1821
Theatre Royal in Hawkins Street, Dublin
There have been three Theatre Royals built on the same site in Hawkins Street, Dublin beginning in 1821 and finally ending in 1962. A chronological history of all the different incarnations of this Theatre follows:
The first Theatre Royal, in Hawkins Street, Dublin opened on the 18th of January 1821. It was built with money raised by debentures by Mr. Calcraft and had its own company, many members of which spent practically their whole professional life in the Theatre.
On Saturday the 28th of March 1874 the final performance under the proprietorship of Mr John Harris took place, and then Messrs Gunn became the new owners. A report on this change of ownership and the history of the Theatre Royal and other Dublin Theatres can be seen here.
This first Theatre Royal in Hawkins Street was totally destroyed by fire on the 9th of February 1880.
The second Theatre Royal in Hawkins Street, Dublin was built on the site of the first which had been destroyed by fire on the 9th of February 1880. The replacement Theatre opened on the 13th of December 1897. This new Theatre Royal presented every type of entertainment from Pantomime to Variety.
Above - The Orchestra of the Theatre Royal, Dublin in 1913 - Courtesy Roy Stockdill who says: 'My grandfather, FRED MIDGLEY, is the young man seated far right on the front row (as you look at the photo) with a violin under his right arm and bow across his knees. I think he was probably the youngest member of the orchestra and would have been about 27 when this was taken. He played the Theatre Royal, Dublin for many years from about 1912.' Tom Milligan tells me that 2nd from left on the back row is Charlie Regazzoli, who appears in all three of these photos.
Above - The Orchestra of the Theatre Royal, Dublin circa 1913 - Courtesy Roy Stockdill who says: 'A different photo and you will see there appear to be 19 players against 17 on the first photo. However, I imagine it must have been from around the same period because the double bass player is clearly the same man. My grandfather is seated in the front row, second man along (looking at the photo) between the cello player and the man I presume was the conductor.' Tom Milligan tells me that 3rd from left on the middle row is Charlie Regazzoli, who appears in all three of these photos.
Above - The Orchestra of the Theatre Royal, Dublin
in the early 1930s - Courtesy Tom Milligan who says: 'My grandfather,
James Douglas (back row, 5th from the left) was a trombonist in the
Theatre Royal Orchestra in Dublin. 1st on the left on the back row
with the Clarinet is Charlie Regazzoli, who appears in all three of
these photos. Joe Keeffe is the trumpet player, back row, 4th from
the left (beside the trombonist, my grandfather). Bobby Bolton, conductor,
is front row, 3rd from the left.'' - Tom Milligan.
The Theatre was later renamed the Theatre Royal Hippodrome during its variety years. This second Theatre Royal, Dublin was demolished in 1934 to make way for a third Theatre Royal which opened on the same site the following year, 1935.
Above - The third and final Theatre Royal in Hawkins Street, Dublin - Courtesy McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd From their 'Centenary booklet 1853 - 1953'
Right - Souvenir Programme for the opening of the third Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street, Dublin on September 23rd 1935.
This third Theatre was designed by the architect, Leslie Norton and had an Art Deco exterior and, in contrast, a Middle Eastern Moorish interior. The Theatre had a 40 foot stage depth and was fitted with a large screen for Cinema use.
Sadly this Theatre succumbed to the pressures of other media such as Television and was finally closed on June the 30th 1962 and subsequently demolished.
There is much more information and many images of the third Theatre Royal further down on this page.
Right - The programme for the last performance at the Theatre Royal Dublin on Saturday the 30th of June 1962. The Theatre was subsequently demolished - Programme courtesy Margaret (Peggy) Crosbie whose husband, Paddy Crosbie, was on the Bill.
N.B. There was also a Theatre Royal in Smock Alley, Dublin which was the first custom built theatre in the city. It opened in 1637. The Theatre Royal, Smock Alley was demolished and rebuilt in 1735 but finally closed for good in 1787.
Above - The programme for the last performance at the Theatre
Royal Dublin on Saturday the 30th of June 1962. The Theatre was subsequently
demolished - Programme courtesy Margaret (Peggy) Crosbie whose husband,
Crosbie, was on the Bill for the production along with Jimmy Campell
and the Theatre Royal Orchestra, Frankie Blowers, Peggy
Dell, Royalettes, Jimmy Campell Singers, Cecil Sheridan, Mickser
Reid, John Molloy, Derry O'Donovan, Alice, Dalgarno, Babs de Monte,
Cora Cadwell Dancers, and guests; Frankie Blowers, Paddy Crosbie,
Val Fitzpatrick, Frank Howard, Jimmy O'Dea, Milo O'Shea, Edmund Browne,
Danny Cummins, Pauline Forbes, Josef
Locke, Harry O'Donovan, Jack
Cruise, Ursala Doyle, Vernon Hayden, Sean Mooney, Noel
Purcell, Mickser Reid, and Cecil Sheridan.
From a Souvenir Programme for the
opening of the new Theatre Royal on September 23rd, 1935
With the opening of the New Theatre Royal in this year of Grace, 1935, a new page is turned in the history of entertainment in Ireland, and the sigh of regret at the passing of the famous building it has superseded will be drowned in the exclamations of wonder at the New Theatre.
Right - The 1935 Theatre Royal Frontage - From the opening night Souvenir Programme.
Above - The second Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street,
Long before 1821 the building of the Theatre Royal had been contemplated. It was in the year 1788 that an Act was passed to regulate the Theatre Royal. Dublin, but the building did not materialise until 33 years later. When the Charter was passed the population of Dublin in the meantime had risen from 114,616 to 175,585.
However, the Royal opened its doors with a flourish on the 18th January, 1821 and was made the occasion of a civic celebration attended by all the "nobility and gentry."
During the opening year of its career George IV. who landed at Howth, on his visit to Ireland attended a performance and the theatre was honoured with the Lord Chancellor's Patent on this account.
The old Theatre was built with money raised by debentures by Mr. Calcraft, and had its own company, many members of which spent practically their whole professional life in the theatre.
Left - Pit Tokens as used in the original Theatre Royal.
This building experienced varying fortunes and survived many vicissitudes and exciting incidents until 1880, when it was totally destroyed by fire. Luckily it was nearing the opening hour and the audience had not yet assembled. A boy with a taper was lighting the gas jets-which by this time superseded the oil lamps. Suddenly there was a loud explosion, a scream, and the curtains of the Viceregal Box burst into flame. A careless plumber had unscrewed a gas bracket and had not closed the pipe. A rapid escape of gas and the lighted taper did the damage! Francis Egerton, (See Note below) the business manager tried to bring the stage fire-hose into operation, but it was out of order and by the time it had been adjusted the flames were attacking the stage. In vain did young Charles Hyland appeal to Egerton to save himself, but Egerton stuck to his post and was never seen again. Ten minutes after Hyland escaped, the stage was a living flame!
But even after the fire of 1880 the Royal was destined to live. In 1886 the Leinster Hall was erected in its place, and subsequently in 1897 the Theatre Royal standing on the site of the old theatre reopened its doors.
A point worth noting is that the statue of Hibernia which filled the niche over the doorway of the Theatre Royal in 1876 is to-day placed over the entrance to the General Enclosure in the present showyard at Balisbridge.
Right - The 1935 Theatre Royal Frontage - From the opening night Souvenir Programme.
Since 1897 the recently demolished theatre had provided consistently good entertainment for its patrons. Every type of presentation from pantomime to variety has pleased patrons for over a century since its inception, and the most famous European Artistes have given of their best.
With such a colourful history it is our intention that the Theatre Royal to-day will add an even greater lustre to its already splendid traditions.
(Please note that the above text mentions Francis Egerton when it should say Henry Egerton. Des Kerrins writes: 'I have checked the old files of the Irish Times [IT] newspaper and it is clear that he was known as Henry Egerton. It seems that he was an extremely well respected and popular gentleman who gave his life in a heroic effort to save the Theatre Royal. He was the Stage Manager and also the Business Manager working for Mr Gunn. Incidentally Gunn also owned or leased the Dublin Gaiety Theatre at the same time.
The fire took place on Feb 9th 1880 and absolutely destroyed the theatre. Egerton was last seen in or around the Vice-Regal Box attempting to fight the fire with a stage hose-pipe. On Feb 12th the IT reported that his body had not yet been recovered and that his brother-in-law, William Glover from Glasgow had arrived in Dublin. Glover was a well-known landscape painter from Glasgow. We are also told that Egerton was a native of Glasgow and was well known there also. In fact the Glaswegian newspapers also reported on the fire and death of Henry Egerton.
Henry's wife was Amy Glover [sister to William] and they had 3 children, a boy named Charles and 2 girls. There is no mention of his wife and children dying in the fire. Egerton's first wife Grace however, died in another theatre fire trying to save two children from the flames during a pantomime. I don't know where this happened but it may have been in Glasgow and I also don't know if the 2 children survived. This death was recorded in the Glasgow papers. Egerton was stage manager at the Glasgow Theatre Royal, Dunlop St, for Mrs Edmond Glover about 1863. At another time he was leesee of the Leeds Amphitheatre along with Mr W. M. Foster. The IT reports that up to the end of Feb 1880 his body had not yet been recovered from the ruins and even on the 16th Feb the bricks being excavated were too hot to handle! The Fire Chief in charge of the fire fighting was Mr Ingram whose grandchild was the famous Hollywood director Rex Ingram. I have no info about when the body was recovered, if ever, and it may be that he was never found. A Charitable fund was set up with a committee of gentlemen and money was raised for Egerton's family. Des kerins.)
Policy and Management.
The policy of the Management of the NEW THEATRE ROYAL is to present to theatregoers Grand Opera, Musical Comedy, Drama and Variety under conditions which have never before obtained in the theatrical history of the Irish Free State, and, in fact, are not excelled elsewhere. Every encouragement will be given to local Artistes, and, in addition, the finest talent it is possible to procure from all quarters of the globe - regardless of expense - will be engaged and presented to patrons under the most favourable circumstances and the most luxurious surroundings. Profiting by the past and present theatrical scientific research the Management will be in an advantageous position in offering theatrical productions which have never been surpassed, in lavishness, lighting or entertainment value.
Right - Mr J. E Pearce, chairman and Managing Director of the Theatre Royal.
It is to the daring vision of the controlling genius of Mr. J. E. Pearce, the Chairman and Managing Director, that we owe the magnificent enterprise represented by the New Theatre Royal. Associated through accountancy with the earliest cinema and film ventures and the amusement field, Mr. Pearce, of Ayesha Castle, Killiney, Co. Dublin, is also responsible for the cinematic triumphs of the Savoy, Dublin, the Savoy, Cork, and the Savoy, Limerick, now rapidly approaching completion.
The Resident Manager of the New Royal, Mr. J. McGrath, needs no introduction to the Dublin public. His Irish birth - he comes from a well-known Roscommon family and his wide experience of the theatre and cinema world make him a most acceptable choice for his present position.
From the inception of the Savoy Cinema, Dublin, he was its House Manager, and later became Manager. When the Savoy Cinema, Cork, was built, Mr. McGrath opened it and managed it for two years.
His policy with regard to the Theatre Royal is to present at popular prices the cream of talent in the finest entertainment it is possible to secure.
The Theatre Architecture and the Architect.
The skillful planning and construction of the magnificent theatre which opened its doors this evening is due to the brilliant and untiring energy of Mr. Leslie Norton, the architect, ably assisted by Messrs. Scott & Good, of Dublin.
Mr. Norton has had very wide, varied and specialised experience in theatre designing and planning in every part of these Islands, and the building of the Theatre Royal stands as his latest and crowning achievement.
Right - A Street Sculpture depicting a Theatre Usher called Mr.
Usher, who is pointing with his torch at the site of the former Theatre
Royal on Hawkins Street, Dublin, photographed in March 2009 - Courtesy
Des Kerins, whose Uncle worked at
the third Theatre Royal.
The striking front elevation of the Royal has been designed as the embodiment of a Modern Palace of Entertainment. The sculptured figures on the facade so exquisitely carved by Mr. Laurence Campbell, the young Irish sculptor, representing Eire the central figure on her left a Celtic Warrior and on her right the Celtic Muse of Imagination. The cornice is surmounted by four giant masks representing Comedy, Tragedy, Drama and Burlesque. The facing of the main structure is in dazzling white cement stucco designed specially to throw the ornamentation into relief.
The interior of the Theatre.
A richly lavish Moorish architectural scheme has been adopted for the decoration of the auditorium which is based on authentic details from the Alhambra at Granada in Spain. This has involved considerable research and many drawings had to be made in order to obtain the basis for the decorative scheme.
Those who cherish happy memories of the old Theatre Royal will be intrigued to find that the marble balustrade of the famous old Grand Staircase has been cunningly incorporated on both sides of the proscenium ends of the Balcony, a concession to sentiment and a gesture that should finally dispel any remaining regrets at the disappearance of this notable feature of the old building.
Right - The Moorish interior of the 1935 Theatre Royal.
The New Theatre, with its up-to-date stage and lighting equipment is augmented by a modern projection room, working in conjunction with the lighting devices.
The Theatre Royal Orchestra
One of the most important components of theatrical entertainment is the orchestra on which depends the musical background of all stage presentations, whether they be Operatic, Musical Comedy or Variety Acts. We have pleasure, therefore, in announcing that Mr. Jimmy Campbell, who is already a popular Dublin favourite, both on account of his entertaining personality and artistic versatility, will be the Conductor of the Theatre Royal Orchestra.
Mr. Campbell commenced his musical career at the Scala Cinema, South Shields at the age of 18, and later broadcast for the B.B.C. for two-and-a-half years as a solo violinist from Newcastle. Engagements in Sunderland (where he introduced Stage Presentations) and Preston followed.
Right - Jimmy Campbell, conductor of the Theatre Royal Orchestra.
By this time he had formed his own Orchestra and had developed a talent for orchestration and original musical arrangements which brought him finally to London and the Prince's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. He had now formed a Symphony orchestra and his experience had deepened and widened.
It is due to his faculty in selecting, almost at sight, musicians who he feels, have the material for good team work in an orchestra that he has been able to select and train from local Irish talent the fine orchestras which have been chosen for both the Theatre Royal and the Regal Rooms, which represent the pick of Irish musicians. He is equally at home interpreting both classical and modern compositions and has a keen sense of modern rhythm.
The Theatre Royal orchestra consists of twenty-five highly skilled musicians.
The orchestra pit is built on a special electric lift so that it can ascend to stage level at the touch of an electric button,.
THE OPENING CEREMONY.
We feel it a very great honour that a leading Minister of the Government, Mr. Sean Lemass, Minister of Industry and Commerce, has courteously consented to perform the opening ceremony of the Theatre Royal. It sets the seal of state approval to an enterprise which is intended for the public stimulation and entertainment. It is fitting too that the Government and its Ministers should be interested in an enterprise which has given so much employment to Irish labour in its construction and will continue to give permanent employment to its large personnel.
Supporting the Minister of Industry and Commerce in this opening ceremony is, appropriately enough, the Right Hon. The Lord Mayor, Dublin's beloved First Citizen, without whom no public function would be complete, and Count John McCormack whose magnificent voice, and endearing personality has contributed so much to Ireland's fame all over the world.
Left - The 1935 Theatre Royal Frontage - From the opening night Souvenir Programme.
The opening of the New Theatre Royal marks an historic landmark in Ireland's theatrical history. New standards will be set in the domain of entertainment which have hitherto never been attempted.
It is fitting also that on this occasion representatives of leading public bodies, and the leading citizens of Dublin have expressed their appreciation by their presence.
To the many public officials whose helpful co-operation has made the opening of this great theatre possible, to the artists, craftsmen and artisans whose service, loyally and labour have brought about such magnificent results - to all we return our most cordial thanks.
THE OPENING PRESENTATION
Produced on a lavish scale hitherto undreamed of, "The New Royal Revue" is presented by Francis A. Mangan, the talented Irish-American whose flair as a producer has made him celebrated in many parts of the world. Although Mangan's stage presentations are a novelty to Ireland, they are famous throughout Great Britain and the Continent, including France, Spain and Switzerland.
Colour blending, both scenic effects and lighting, play an important part in these productions, as well as the actual talent, and, of course, the famous troupes of dancing girls, both classical and jazz, who have danced their way into the hearts of the public from one end of Europe to another, need no mention.
Left - The Mangan Dancing Girls at the Theatre Royal Dublin.
In addition to the lavish splendour of the scenes provided by both the Mangan Corps de Ballet and the beautiful Mangan Dancing Girls, some of the leading stars of the Variety stage contribute specialty acts. Included amongst which are the internationally famous dancers Iris Kirkwhite and Keith Lester, The St. Helier Sisters, Daroll Richards, Alphonse Berg with his magical fashion creations, Danny Malone, the Irish Street Singer, who sung his way to fame almost overnight, the Three Diamond Brothers, Senator Murphy - one of America's foremost political comedians, and Joe Jackson - the Eccentric Clown.
THE NEW ROYAL REVIEW" - as a glance at the programme overleaf (Shown Below) will reveal, has been planned to make use of the magnificent resources of the stage equipment, lighting and scenic effects to their utmost. As spectacle after spectacle is unfolded beyond the proscenium arch, Dublin theatregoers will have an opportunity of witnessing a singular triumph of production and stage management.
Above - The New Royal Review - From the opening night Souvenir Programme of the New Theatre Royal, Dublin on the 23rd of September 1935
COMING ROYAL ATTRACTIONS.
For next week the stupendous attraction "Radio New York" with Will Mahony, America's most versatile and dynamic comedian of the stage and screen - the personification of exuberance - at the top of a bill featuring America's Stars of the Air in person. The cream of the world's variety and radio artistes headed by the inimitable Will includes Evie Haves, crooning star, Joe Griffin, famous Irish American Tenor, Bob Garr, American Radio pianist. The 12 Tiller Girls, Lennox and Lorrana in "Rhythmic Burlesque," Omar the Dance Sensation, Ernest Shannan in "Radio Diversions" and the famous radio musical ensemble The Six Green Brothers.
Right - Prices and details of the Theatre Royal, Dublin.
To give you an idea of some of the marvelous shows which have already been booked for your delectation, we submit with pride the following:
"Stop Press" with Phyllis Monkman and Star Cast.
"Leicester Square Looks Round"
" Cari Rosa Opera Company."
"Alfredo and His Band."
"Waltzes from Vienna."
The Celebrity Concerts.
We have the honour of announcing that the famous series of International Celebrity Concerts have been booked as coming attractions for the Winter Season,1935-36. They will once more enchant you in their old home the Theatre Royal. For very many years past, Dublin music lovers have shown their appreciation of the renowned artistes who have thrilled them with their unsurpassable performances.
Right - Celebrity Concerts at the Theatre Royal, Dublin - From the opening night Souvenir Programme of the New Theatre Royal, Dublin on the 23rd of September 1935
Left - Details of the International Celebrity Concerts at the Theatre Royal, Dublin for the Season 1935-36.
This year an even greater galaxy of International Stars have been engaged to make the Celebrity Concert Season more memorable and glorious in the musical history of the City, for music can best be appreciated in its most inspiring form in a worthy setting which will at once place the Artiste en rapport with his audience.
THE THEATRE ROYAL ORGANIST AND
Mr. H. Alban Chambers, who will preside at the console of the superb Compton Organ, has had a distinguished musical career, his first appointment being official organist to Leeds Cathedral at the age of eleven in 1913. In 1919 he joined the music staff of Stonyhurst College where he remained until 1924, when he accepted an appointment as organist at the New Kinema, Leeds.
Right - Mr. H. Alban Chambers, organist at the Theatre Royal, Dublin - From the opening night Souvenir Programme of the New Theatre Royal, Dublin on the 23rd of September 1935.
Always an earnest student of music, he continued his studies which culminated in the degree of Bachelor of Music in 1925, followed by Associateship of the Royal College of Music in 1926, and Fellow of the Royal College of Organists in 1927-a three years' record! His reputation as a skilled musician had gone before him when he was appointed by the Paramount Company to their show theatre - the ASTORIA at Brixton in 1931-which position he has held until his present engagement.
THE NEW ROYAL ORGAN.
The remarkable instrument which Mr. Chambers will control is the largest and most modern theatre organ yet built. It has an extraordinary range, and is equipped with the Electrone - the most advanced device in musical scientific research.
The Electrone does not rely in the production of its tone upon pipes, bells or any kind of musical device hitherto used, it is purely electrical. The sounds of this new feature are such that they blend remarkably well with the familiar theatre organ tone, and it improves the whole effect of the organ enormously. Besides the carillons, chimes and other special effects obtainable in this way, the organ includes almost every kind of musical sound known to the ear.
Left - Details of the Compton Organ at the Theatre Royal, Dublin - From the opening night Souvenir Programme of the New Theatre Royal, Dublin on the 23rd of September 1935.
All that is visible to the audience of this gigantic instrument is the specially designed, beautifully decorated and illuminated glass covered console, which has four manuals or keyboards. From this keyboard the organist controls his vast resources. As he selects stops or depresses keys to give him the tones he wants, electrical connections are made which are carried by the main cable to the organ chambers, of which there are two over the stage.
The credit for building the great Theatre Royal Organ must go to John Compton, head of the greatest firm of organ builders in the world
Attached to the Theatre Royal is the Regal Rooms Restaurant which has already made a sensational hit as being the smartest and most cosmopolitan rendezvous in Ireland.
It is under the management of Mr. Hugh Margey, who is widely known in restaurant circles, and is one of the youngest and most talented restaurateurs in the country.
Right - The 1935 Theatre Royal Frontage and the Regal Rooms - From the opening night Souvenir Programme.
Furnished, lighted and decorated with extremely good taste, one is impressed, on entering, with an atmosphere of quiet luxury. The tables are tastefully laid out - the array of table silver and shining napery being a mute invitation to dine in comfort. The Restaurant is licensed for wines and an excellent cellar is maintained.
A special feature is the Regal Tipica Orchestra which is under the direction of Mr. Jimmy Campbell, whose selection of musical programmes is made with unerring judgment to appeal to the most varied tastes.
Right - Mr. Hugh Margey, manager of the Regal Rooms Restaurant.
The Sunday Evening Supper Concerts have finally solved the old problem of what to do and where to go on a Sunday night.
The Bars and Lounge Equipment.
Whether you are in the Stalls, the Grand Circle, or the Back Circle and Upper Circle, there is a special Bar on each of these floors. The Marine Bar, serving the Orchestra Stalls and Parterre, in veneered Australian Walnut and Black Beam timbering, is built under the Auditorium floor and involved excavation ten feet below the level of the River Liffey!
The Famous Royal Staircase.
Leading to the Upper Circle Bar is a familiar link with the past, part of the marble staircase which adorned the vestibule of the old Theatre Royal. (More information on this staircase can be found here. M.L. )
The Tea Lounge.
On the second floor is the Tea lounge richly carpeted in rose-pink. Here is the utmost in comfort for the patron who wishes to order tea, coffee, or light refreshments.
Above - The site of the Regal Rooms in 2011 - Courtesy Des Kerrins
Some Notable Features.
One of the important problems to be faced in the modern theatre is that of ventilating and heating.
A "stuffy" atmosphere makes the most sparkling show seem dull, and, cold, draughts, on the other hand, make for acute discomfort.
Once more the services of the scientist are called in and we discover that air must be washed and purified and distributed through the theatre so that the atmosphere remains clear and stimulating to the theatre patron.
So we have, therefore, equipped the Royal with an "Air Laundry" in which the whole of the air used for ventilation is washed by passing it through a water mist. The dusty air is thoroughly washed and then dried by passing through a series of specially corrugated plates which separate all the free moisture. The washed air is then forced into the Theatre through large steel ducts, and is distributed to the various parts of the auditorium.
Right - The 1935 Theatre Royal Frontage - From the opening night Souvenir Programme.
It may interest patrons to know that for their comfort millions of cubic feet of fresh, washed air are delivered to the Theatre every hour.
Every few minutes during the performance patrons will possibly be unconscious of the fact that all the "used air" is being steadily extracted by means of powerful fans and discharged outside - as the fresh pure air pours in to replace it.
In Winter the air is heated by means of large heating batteries to give the necessary warmth to the building.
This equipment has been carried out by J. Jeffreys & Co., Ltd., who are associated with Messrs. McCann, Ltd., of Dublin. The whole of the installation has been carried out by Irish labour, and is not only the most extensive, but also the most modern so far installed in any theatre in Europe.
A Wizard of lighting and the Instruments of his Art.
An artist of draping, great inventive power, a genius at scenic effects and artistic lighting who started as a call boy and worked his way up to becoming the Little Napoleon of Stage Management, such is James S. Charters, Stage Manager of the Theatre Royal, whose most recent record was made at the London Palladium in some of the most spectacular presentations offered to the theatre going public.
Mr. Charters has had an adventurous career in his stage work, and has been specially engaged on account of his natural talent for stage settings, lighting and effects by the leading stars of the variety world including Archie Pitt, Gracie Fields, etc., and has also been honoured by four Royal Command Performances.
Left - Mr. James S. Charters, Stage Manager of the Theatre Royal, Dublin.
Let us go behind the scenes with Mr. Charters and see some of the electrical marvels which will be at the disposal of this wizard of lighting. The Strand Electric & Engineering Co., the well-known lighting specialists are responsible for the installation. There being a unique link between this firm and Ireland, as Mr. Philip Sheridan (Managing Director and founder of the firm) is a Dublin born Irishman who was apprenticed to a Dublin Electrical Company in 1880.
The equipment consists of a Stage Switchboard and Dimmer Regulator, controlling Footlights - Battens - and Auditorium circuits, etc., duplicate control of which is provided in the Operating Box.
The Battens and Footlights are of the famous "Sunray" Magnet design reflectors, and interchangeable colour frames. In addition there is a multiplicity of mobile lighting units.
Twelve 1,000 watt Spotlights project from the Spot Chamber in the Ceiling onto the Fore Stage, to generally augment the illumination in this Important area.
The Lighting System.
MESSRS. R. G. Bruty in conjunction with Mr. A. J. Pemberton are responsible for the general illumination scheme of the theatre. Mr. Pemberton the well known theatre lighting and engineering specialist has been intimately associated with the problems of theatre lighting since 1905. Nearly forty leading cinemas and theatres owe the success of their lighting systems to his efforts. He regards the Theatre Royal installation as the most comprehensive and best equipped of all in his varied experience.
The general illumination is in the form of concealed lighting, the lighting units being fitted into the plaster features with suitable reflectors to give an even diffused effect.
The Entrance Hall, Vestibule, lounge Bar, Main Foyer and Waiting Space, Tea Lounge and Foyer are all treated in this manner, with exquisite results from a lighting point of view.
The main lighting scheme in the Auditorium is atmospheric, the lighting units being arranged in the main alcoves of ceiling and in the ceilings of Royal Circle and Stalls.
In addition to which we have to include the Neon Lighting installation and Flood light equipment for front of house display.
The Sound Equipment.
Patrons of the Theatre Royal will be pleased to know that the new Cinema Wide Range reproducing system has been installed in this theatre.
Wide Range is the latest improvement developed by the Western Eclectic engineers.
The enormous advantages to be gained with Wide Range are that it not only creates a greater intimacy between the audience and the screen artiste, but that all the sound variations of speech and music are faithfully and naturally reproduced.
Orchestral music, when reproduced on this system, shows a remarkable improvement. The individual instruments are heard in their true perspective and with all their original brilliance.
The above text and images are from the opening night Souvenir Programme of the New Theatre Royal, Dublin on the 23rd of September 1935.
Above - The site of the Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street, Dublin in 2011 - Courtesy Des Kerrins
The Theatre Royal succumbed to the pressures of other media such as Television and was finally closed on June the 30th 1962 and subsequently demolished.
Another historical report on the Theatre Royal and other Dublin Theatres can be seen here.
Above - Mulligan's Public House in February 2011 - Courtesy Des Kerrins
Although this photo of a Pub might not seem to be in any way theatrical, bear with me. Mulligan's was established in 1872 and was situated exactly opposite the Stage Door of the Theatre Royal. Although there were always a number of Bars in the 3rd Theatre Royal [and the 2 preceding theatres] if an artiste wanted a little bit of privacy when knocking back a pint then he simply crossed the street and slipped into Mulligan's. The Stage Doorman always knew where to find a missing artiste and no harm was done. I should also point out that the old Tivoli Theatre on Burgh Quay backed on to Mulligan's and the Queens Theatre was 1 minute away. So with all that in mind I can safely say that Mulligan's was indeed a "Theatrical Pub". Des Kerrins.
A musician who played at the Theatre Royal, Dublin in the early 20th century.
FRED MIDGLEY was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1886 and learned the violin so competently that he wanted to become a professional. However, his parents didn't think being a musician was quite respectable in Edwardian times, so insisted he got a "proper job" first! He trained as a bootmaker in Bradford and appears in a Bradford trade directory as such in the early 1900s. However, his determination to become a professional violinist won the day and he started playing in Theatre pit orchestras as a young man in his 20s.
He played at a number of Theatres in the north of England, including Liverpool and Morecambe, and the Theatre Royal, Dublin. I understood from my mother that he sometimes commuted on the ferry between Dublin and Morecambe to play engagements in the orchestras at the Theatre Royal and the Tower, Morecambe.
Right - Fred Midgley and the orchestra at the Tower, Morecambe in 1929 - Courtesy Roy Stockdill who says: 'My grandfather is third from left on the front row.' Tom Milligan tells me that 3rd from left on the front row is Charlie Regazzoli, who also appears in the three TR Dublin Orchestra photos higher up on this page.
Returning to his native Bradford near the end of the 1920s, he joined the orchestra at the Alhambra Theatre and became lead violinist, playing for many years in the annual Christmas pantomime which was famous as one of the biggest in the north when the Theatre was operated by the theatrical impresario, Francis Laidler. The pantos continued throughout World War II and my grandfather played for them until the war ended and then would go home and "do his bit" as an ARP warden. He used to play for the pantomime between Christmas and Easter and would then go and join the orchestra at a Butlin's holiday camp for the summer months, usually at either Filey or Skegness. He and my grandmother lived in Pudsey, a Yorkshire mill town midway between Leeds and Bradford, and in between his stints in the Theatre and Butlin's orchestras I can remember him filling in for a week or two as a boot repairer, helping out in his old trade, so he never forgot that early skill either!
He was a delightful man with a great sense of humour and I loved him dearly. He was still working at the Alhambra until about 1960, well past normal retirement age, and died in 1966, aged 80.
The above text and image are courtesy Roy Stockdill, 2014.