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The Torch Theatre, Capel Street, Dublin

Dublin Theatres Index

The Facade of the former Torch Theatre, Capel Street, Dublin in a photograph taken in April 2009 - Courtesy Des Kerins

Above - The Facade of the former Torch Theatre, Capel Street, Dublin in a photograph taken in April 2009 - Courtesy Des Kerins

Capel Street today is a very narrow thoroughfare with shops on both sides and nobody would dream of opening a Theatre in such a street. However in 1925 things were different and when a large building became available at No 114 -116 a new theatrical company came into being. The building, which had been the headquarters of the United Trades Council, was eminently suitable for use as a Theatre because it had a large meeting-hall on the ground floor that was easily converted into a Theatre for public use.

The Torch Theatre was opened in February 1935 by Charles L Keogh, an actor/director and his actress wife Evelyn Lund. Keogh had appeared in 1923 in the Queens Theatre in melodrama and Evelyn Lund also appeared at the Queens in 1925. Keogh joined the O'Dea/O'Donovan Theatre Company in 1930 under the name of Charles O'Reilly and appeared at the London Coliseum.

The new company based at the Torch was semi-professional and had a policy of presenting melodrama and opened with Boucicault's Colleen Bawn. In the summer of 1935 the Theatre was closed for the summer and it is possible that the company went touring through the Irish countryside. The Theatre reopened in September with A Tale of two Cities and during the 1935/36 winter season continued to present melodrama including The Face at the Window and Sweet Nell of old Drury Lane. Madame Van Aalst who also appeared at several better-class Dublin restaurants provided interval music in the Theatre.

In the spring of 1936 Cyril Cusack directed and designed the set for a season of plays in the Irish language. Once again the Theatre closed for the 1936 summer and re-opened in September for the 1936/37 winter season. There now appeared to be less Irish melodrama and among the plays presented were Queen of the Scots, The Brontes [by Alfred Sanger] and Charley's Aunt. There was also a play named The Duchess of Padua written by Oscar Wilde. This apparently was not a great success and seats were offered on the basis of two seats for the price of one!

The premiere of a play about the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell, written by Elsie Schauffler, was the last production mounted by Charles Keogh and the Theatre closed on March 15th 1937. In February 1938 the New Ireland Dramatic Society re-opened the Theatre and in collaboration with various other groups presented revues and variety shows. At this point in time Lorcan Bourke became involved with the Torch Theatre and at Easter 1938 he presented a Pageant with the Collins Barracks Dramatic Society that was presumably an amateur group drawn from the Irish Army. Lorcan's brother Jimmy wrote the Pageant and the music was by Peader Kearney who wrote the Irish National Anthem.

The final stage production "Sensations of 1940" was in February 1940 and was directed by Dan Rockford. Following that the Theatre was used for film shows and finally closed in 1941. The building is still standing in 2009 and is listed for preservation.

The above text was written, and kindly sent in for inclusion on this site, by Des Kerins in April 2009.

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