Over €4 million has been invested in a major refurbishment of the Olympia Theatre in Dame Street, which is owned by Caroline Downey and Denis Desmond of MCD. The result is very impressive indeed...
Hot Press has done the full guided tour of the newly refurbished Olympia Theatre in Dublin – and we can report that it’s a winner.
Fans attending events there may not have fully realised it, but over the past nine months or so, a major renewal project has been going on behind the scenes, under the guiding hand of Olympia and Gaiety Theatre boss, Caroline Downey. Over €4 million has been invested in bringing the historic theatre – which first opened its doors as Dan Lowery's Star of Erin Music Hall in 1879, and was rechristened The Olympia Theatre in 1923 – back to its former glory.
The only stipulation at the outset was that the theatre had to remain open. There were too many dates locked in to allow for even a temporary shut-down.
“That was a huge challenge,” says the Olympia's Chief Operating Officer, Kim O’Callaghan. “But once the staff here and in MCD were aware of what was involved they wanted to be part of it. It is all about teamwork – and everyone rolled up their sleeves and set about getting the job done.”
From a practical point of view, getting the seating on the auditorium floor right was the biggest challenge. The old seats – installed many decades ago – were by this stage cramped, worn and, well, not exactly offering the height of modern comfort!
“People who are big complained for one reason. People who are small complained for another,” Kim laughs. “They had been in place forever, so they really had to be changed.”
The project team, with Eamonn Fox and David 'Spud' Murphy of MCD's outdoor team to the fore, came up with a brilliant solution, which provides extra leg-room for everyone without losing capacity. The new seats have a slim-line elegance and they are really comfortable. But the design also makes them easy to remove and stack – which vastly improves the turnaround time from seated shows to standing, and vice versa.
“The old seats had to be literally screwed out individually, so it was really tedious, labour intensive work that was very difficult to manage,” Kim says. “Whereas the new seats can be slipped in and out – there are no screws involved.”
The seats are set into a grid system, which is cleverly designed to be both rock solid and easily removed. It is a great piece of modern design and engineering, which in every way benefits the fans and the patrons. But it also benefits the artists, because the old central aisle has been eliminated.
“A similar change was made in the Gaiety Theatre,” Kim says, “and so Caroline had that experience to guide her. The thing is that the performers all say that they by far prefer it. When you think about it, in the old seating arrangement, if the artist was smack bang in the centre of the stage, they’d be looking down at a big gap. Now, it feels much fuller, which is what every artist and performer wants. It really does add to the atmosphere when you have a packed house.”
The theatre’s four bars have also been transformed, with design input from Gwen Kenny of Divine Designs. For a start, the objective was to give them a fresh, and more luxurious feel, appropriate to the status of the theatre, as one of Dublin’s great entertainment destinations. But it was important too to ensure that service would be speeded up, to enable people to reliably get a drink during the classic theatrical interval rush.
The legendary Maureen’s Bar, on the ground floor, now features a visual homage to the great woman herself – who still does her shifts in the evening at the age of 91 – and which features dozens of pics of her with celebrities, actors, comedians and musicians of various shades and stripes. The bottles are now displayed properly too, adding not just to the visual appeal of the room, but also giving patrons a quick feel for what’s on offer – which is vital given the maximum 20-minute window that is the standard interval time in theatrical productions. In addition, attendees can now order their drinks in advance, so that they are ready and waiting when the stage lights dim.
In all of the bars, large-scale photographs are given pride of place. Alongside Maureen’s Bar is The Portrait Bar. Taking its design cue from the huge central chandelier, a circular bar has been positioned in the centre of the room, completely changing the dynamics and giving it a much buzzier and more convivial atmosphere.
On the walls is a series of photos of Ireland’s acting greats, taken by leading photographer Barry McCall – featuring Gabriel Byrne, Saoirse Ronan, Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell and lots more iconic figures. There is a beautifully stylised look about the printing of the photos and they are superbly framed and lit. The muted lighting in the room gives it a feel that is both warm and welcoming. In many ways the Piece de Resistance of the refurb, it is the now the kind of place that friends might meet in advance of a show or hang around for drinks and conversation afterwards.
“Caroline was really hands-on with everything,” Kim says. “She is really brilliant at visualising things and knowing what is going to work – and at imagining how it is going to look. It was a real pleasure to work with her and to see how she interacted with the design team – and to watch the ideas being turned into reality.”
There are spectacular results elsewhere too, with the new bars made by Caroline’s cousin and Gwen's husband, Tadhg Kenny, among the stand-out elements.
Meanwhile, in terms of visual themes, in the Circle Level Bar, musicians are featured on the walls, with a great shot of Dublin’s own Imelda May taking pride of place. Meanwhile, on the Gallery/Upper Circle level, the bar focusses on comedians and there’s a couple of voluptuous torsos adding to the sense of style, with a strategic hint of decadence.
The floors in all of the bar areas have been changed too, with rich wood finishes the order of the day, adding immensely to the quality of the finish. An extensive technical upgrade has been carried out, with the mixing desk now in the centre at the back. There has been comprehensive electrical work; the provision of a new medical and staff area; new shops in the stalls and circle levels; and improved facilities for those with special needs.
"Huge emphasis has been put on bringing the Olympia technical specifications up to the best contemporary standards,” the theatre’s Technical Director Matthew Cregan says. “We began with a full rewire of the stage production lighting system, including new dimmers, production facility panels, lighting control consoles and theatrical and concert lighting fixtures. We have also replaced the show relay and paging system to all areas back stage. That allows the show to be relayed to the dressing rooms and also calls for cast to be made as needed, which is a huge advantage to performers.”
There are other major improvements: in terms of sound power, as the Olympia will now have both 110volt and 240volt systems – favoured in the US and in Europe respectively – for touring bands, cutting down on complications hugely.
“We’ve also increased the load capacity in the roof above the stage for the suspension of lighting and stage set pieces,” Matthew adds. "This work was crucial, as shows are getting bigger and bigger, and thus heavier to hang. We’ve also installed what’s called a counterweight flys system, which will allow smooth, live flying of scenery and lights during shows."
Add in new carpeting, the addition of new pictures of the hundreds of artists that have played the venue along the corridors and it is fair to say that The Olympia Theatre has been through its own Operation Transformation – and is looking fantastic in the aftermath.
“It’s incredible that we were able to do all of this work while remaining open,” Matthew reflects. “99 per cent of the work was done onstage overnight and around shows. This could not have been done without the dedicated team of technical staff in the venue and also the highly experienced teams from both Push The Button and Production Services Ireland, who have been carrying out all the stage works.”
For Kim, it was all about staying calm and making things happen smoothly – from everyone’s point of view!
‘We worked away quietly on this through the year,” Kim O’Callaghan says. “We haven’t gone out there making big statements about it – but it is really brilliant when you see the look on people’s faces, for example when they step into one of the new bars for the first time. The reaction has been fantastic. Maureen is really thrilled what we’ve done with her bar, which is important. She’s such an extraordinary character.
“Caroline was an inspiration. And everyone on the staff feels that it has all been worth the hard work and the pressure. It was very intense at times, and there was the odd sleepless night, but everyone was great.”
The end result? A Dublin theatrical and musical institution has been given a fresh new lease of life. Long may it run...
A special limited edition version of U2's new song 'The Blackout' will be released in only four stores across the globe to mark the annual Black Friday, with Freebird on Dublin's Wicklow St announcing that they will be stocking it.Read More
The former teen idol icon has died at the age of 67 from organ failure, only seven months after it was announced that he was battling dementia.Read More
Belfast’s busiest folk band, the Rapparees, have been fanatical followers of the Pogues throughout their musical lives; and when the chance to pay homage to their heroes came up, they jumped at it.Read More
The Walter Presents discovery has picked up an Emmy Award ahead of its Irish & UK bow tonight...Read More
Dr. Adam Winstock on how the way we obtain drugs is changing.Read More
Shortly after Ireland were trashed by Denmark in the World Cup play-off, Cyrus Christie was left in tears by a disgusting racist attack on social media. He has now taken to Twitter to public address the outrageous racist comment, saying: "It is deeply saddening that racism is still part of the game we all enjoy and love."Read More
Leo's government now intends delaying the introduction of a rent deposit protection scheme until 2019Read More
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD has called on Minister Richard Bruton to launch an investigation into bullying concerns raised by current and former staff members of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).Read More
Gavin Lambe-Murphy is in discussions with a UK production company to have his newly published novel about the Dublin social scene adapted for the small screen, Hot Press can exclusively reveal.Read More
Polly & The Beanstalk is still going ahead with an alternate star.Read More
It started with reported interest from Conan O'Brien and James Corden and has ended with the 24-year-old Dubliner resigning from Today FM...Read More
Internationally-acclaimed Irish trumpeter Niall O’Sullivan announces Irish ‘Home for Christmas’ tour, as well as a special gig he's planning in aid of Fr McVerry's homeless charity.Read More
The Irish umbrella group Amplify Women has just published a free practical toolkit on how to deal with harassment and bullying in the workplace.Read More
Coincidentally, the 23-year-old Carlow actress will be hosting the very same episode of NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' show that the Irish rock icons will also be appearing on, this coming 2 December.Read More
The notorious cult leader, who has been behind bars since 1969, has died at the age of 83-years-old.Read More
The popular Tallaght comedian has issued a statement confirming that he needs time out of the spotlight, following allegations of inappropriate behaviourRead More
The stand-up won't be returning to his lunchtime show on Monday...Read More
"The greatest rhythm guitarist in the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll," Morello proclaims... and rightly so!Read More
For those who rocked, we salute you...Read More
The national broadcaster has addressed claims being made online and in the Irish version of the UK Times...Read More
Following the Irish premiere of Daddy's Home 2 in Dublin last night, Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, John Lithgow and Mel Gibson are set to appear on tonight's show to talk about the sequel.Read More
'Evolution of the Crown' takes a sneak peek into the making of the second season of the Queen Elizabeth II biopic.Read More
The airline will soon be operating its first ever direct service from Ireland to Seattle city in Washington state.Read More
The US President has taken to Twitter to attack Senator Al Franken for taking a disturbing photo of himself groping a broadcaster while she was fast asleep on a military airplane!Read More
The normally gorgeous looking Blake Lively may look down in the dumps as she gets into character for the new movie she's presently filming in Ireland. But producer Barbara Broccoli says that the entire crew are upbeat and "loving" the experience of working in the Emerald Isle.Read More
Despite initially stating that they had received no complaints against Kevin Spacey, one of the UK's major theatrical institutions now admits that 20 men have stepped forward to tell horror stories about their personal dealings with the Hollywood star during his time at The Old Vic.Read More
The punk brewers are looking to open their own bar in Dublin.Read More
The punk brewers are looking to open their own bar in Dublin.Read More
Directed by Dee Rees (Bessie, Pariah), Mudbound is the story of two families who find themselves embroiled in a conflict based on social hierarchy in the American Deep South during World War II.Read More
It also supports more than 13,000 jobs, it's been revealed today.Read More
Nothing But Thieves have released a statement to deny numerous allegations of sexual assault made against several different band members.Read More
The ex-Oasis star has a simple message for people still bemoaning the shock Brexit vote: "Fucking get over it!"Read More
The 21-year-old's shock death is being reported as a drug overdose.Read More
"A lot has happened in the last eight years, with Trump, Twitter and my Nan getting her front bush trimmed at the age of 96. I can't wait to get back up on stage," he says.Read More
The Dundalk outfit released Jupiter Calling at the beginning of the week – and already it is exceeding sales expectations. It might just be that they have a Christmas hit on their hands.Read More
Early Bird Tickets for the Donegal beach party go on sale on Friday...Read More
GDS supremo Dr. Adam Winstock has advice for people whose marijuana use has become problematical...Read More
This new blog and live performance series, hosted by Valentina Magli, will highlight the superb calibre of emerging acts in Ireland – and lots more besides.Read More
The London post-punk outfit also confirmed that their debut album, Songs of Praise will come out on 12th January 2018.Read More
There's also a new album to look forward to...Read More
Two years after Ireland made history by passing the first ever referendum in the world on same-sex marriage, they've followed suit Down Under with an overwhelming majority voting in favour of it too.Read More
The Government must not "drag its feet" on producing a gender equality action plan for third level institutions, warns Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne TD.Read More
As fans countdown the days until the new eagerly awaited album is released in a couple of weeks, U2 officially shared their new video last night.Read More
The new single entitled 'Amor Amor Amor' has just been released and it features Wisin.Read More
"I've been ugly my whole life," quipped The Voice star in a statement last night. "If I can be sexy for a year, I'm taking it!"Read More
Celebrating the best in Irish recorded music, the 13th annual RTÉ Choice Music has become one of the nation's most prestigious awards since it began in 2005.Read More
The harrowing accounts of the Tula Toli massacre are heaping more pressure on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi...Read More
After taking Electric Picnic by storm, the Scottish hip hop group will be returning to Ireland next year.Read More
There's some tasty Dutch, French, German, Czech & Hungarian fare to look forward to!Read More
The Sunday Times journalist is becoming one of fiction's hottest properties...Read More
Brace yourself for the Mother of all Rock 'n' Roll, Americana, Blues & Roots sessions on November 24...Read More
The New Jersey indie trio will play at the Olympia Theatre on April 28th, 2018.Read More
Faber & Faber also have a new book on the way from Hot Press favourite Viv Albertine.Read More
A former teacher and published author has been on hunger strike since 24th of October in an effort to receive a pension and to highlight her plight following accusations of being involved in the infamous Northern Bank robbery.Read More
U2 are putting on their "sexy boots" to follow in the footsteps of Adele, Michael Buble, Harry Styles and Sam Smith by having their TV special next month on the Beeb.Read More
Amazon insiders believe their Tolkien adaptation can be as big a global success as 'Game of Thrones'.Read More
The concert line-up for 2018 is looking very strong indeed – with a major seated Croke Park show for the Canadian superstar Michael Bublé the latest to be added.Read More
Swift released her sixth studio album Reputation on November 10th, which includes the tracks '...Ready for It?', 'Look What You Made Me Do' and 'Gorgeous'.Read More
The Guinness Choir's annual Christmas concert is set to take place at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin on Sunday 3rd December 2017 at 7pm.Read More
The British-Icelandic trio have confirmed that their self-titled debut will be released on 26th January 2018.Read More
The first of a new six-part comedy written and starring comedian Alison Spittle, Nowhere Fast is a foul-mouthed look at Irish millennials, rural life and employment.Read More
The Northern Irish experimental folk singer picked up the award at a ceremony in Mandela Hall, Belfast, on Saturday, November 11.Read More
The Special Greatest Hits Tour will see Mike Skinner and co. perform at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on April 16th and 17th.Read More
In an extraordinary war of words, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has publicly criticised his party colleague Peadar Tóibín for sensationally claiming that the Oireachtas Committee set-up to examine the Eighth Amendment law has shown favouritism towards the pro-choice stance.Read More
After two weeks of silence, the former director of the Gate Theatre has finally offered a public apology to the women he left feeling degraded with his inappropriate behaviour and abusive language.Read More
The Irish music icon is planning to hand back his prestigious freedom of the city award because he doesn't want to be connected with an award that's associated with Aung San Suu Kyi.Read More
Martin O'Neill had at least one major surprise up his sleeve when he named the team to represent Ireland tonight in Copenhagen.Read More
With David Meyler suspended, there are fascinating choices facing the Ireland manager, before tomorrow night’s World Cup clash with Denmark, in Copenhagen.Read More
The New York group will perform at The Academy 2, Dublin on Tuesday 23rd February 2018.Read More
Mid-to-late-20th Century Ireland is often depicted as a "backwards" or "conservative" place. It was! But at Hot Press we were always about upending that. So too were numerous great musicians of the day as the re-release of this brilliant track by Cypress Mine! confirms...Read More
The band will take up a four night residency in Dublin's National Concert Hall from the 5th to the 8th of March 2018.Read More
A staggering 13.4 tonnes of cocaine has been seized in a dramatic crackdown in the South American country.Read More
Tom Selleck's sidekick in the popular '80s TV show, star John Hillerman has died at the age of 84.Read More
The up-and-coming Dublin actor has been included as a rising star to keep an eye on in The Hollywood Reporter's Next Gen Talent 2017 list.Read More
The comedian has been accused of masturbating on several different occasions in the presence of appalled women.Read More
Fresh from two sell-out nights at Dublin's 3Arena, Picture This have announced that their debut album, Picture This will be getting a Deluxe Edition reissue.Read More
The Canadian duo are bringing their Morning After tour to Dublin on March 11th 2018.Read More
"I got into trouble for being honest," the Ireland star told us in 2015...Read More
As the Other Boys In Green get ready to take on Switzerland at Windsor Park, we recall Stuart Clark's meeting with our 2015 Manager of the Year...Read More
The Killing Of A Sacred Deer man is keeping some very good company...Read More
The perfect MDMA pill – dose, shape. grooves/split and colour... have your say!Read More
From MDMA and ketamine to cannabis and GHB, the Survey will reveal who’s taking what, where, how often and for how much...Read More
The self-confessed promiscuous Hollywood star Charlie Sheen has sensationally been accused of having illicit sex with a minor, the then child actor Corey Haim when he was just 13-years-oldRead More
Film director Ridley Scott has taken the unprecedented step in deciding to take the disgraced actor out of his already made film only a month before its release date.Read More
With tickets due to go onsale tomorrow for Gorillaz's open-air concert in Malahide Catle on June 9th, here are some useful pointers so you can get one of the hottest tickets of the summer.Read More
The New Zealand artist will be returning to Whelans, Dublin on February 24th 2018.Read More
In a fiercely outspoken Hot Press Interview, David Hall – the man behind iCare and interim CEO of Console in the aftermath of the financial scandal at the charity – has said that he would like to run for the Presidency. But he is full of praise for President Michael D. Higgins.Read More
American art-rock singer St. Vincent fronts the cover of the newest issue of Hot Press!Read More
Actor Ed Westwick has been accused of rape by a 27-year-old woman in a lengthy Facebook post.Read More
The original motion picture soundtrack for Mariah Carey’s 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' is available to download from this weekend and physical copies can be picked up in stores from Friday 17 NovemberRead More
"I would be extremely distressed if anything less than exemplary was done with my name anywhere near it," the U2 man has told the BBC...Read More
Film critic Roe McDermott will discuss allegations of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, both at home and abroad, this evening.Read More
A new blog and live performance series, hosted by Valentina Magli, will highlight the superb calibre of emerging acts in Ireland – and lots more besides.Read More
A brand new series, which takes an unflinching look at the pains of middle class motherhood Motherland's first episode airs tonight on BBC2.Read More
'Trouble On My Mind' is the first song to be released from forthcoming collaborative album recorded by English trio The Staves and New York–based chamber group yMusic.Read More