Olympia Theatre: Dublin's Oldest Theatre Gets A Brand New Look

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.”

ICONIC FIGURES

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.

Maureen's Bar at the Olympia Theatre following extensive refurbishment in 2016

[above] Maureen's Bar at the Olympia Theatre following extensive refurbishment in 2016 photographed by Dara Munis

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.

Portrait Bar @ The Olympia Theatre

[above] The Olympia Theatre's Portrait Bar in 2015 before it's recent refurbishment

Portrait Bar @ The Olympia Theatre

[above] The stunning, newly renovated Portrait Bar @ The Olympia Theatre

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.”

STAYING CALM

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 Circle Bar before Renovation

[above] The Circle Bar before Renovation

The Circle Bar before Renovation

[above] The luxurious Circle Bar following it's extensive 2016 refurbishment, photographed by Rafael Photogrpahy

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...

 

Related Articles

Paul McCartney Is Planning New Album

The ex-Beatles singer-songwriter is back in the studio working on a new album with producer, Greg Kurstin, who has collaborated in the past with the likes of Adele and Beck.

Read More

Ryan Sheridan Releases Song To Raise Awareness Of Homeless Crisis

The singer-songwriter has just released his rendition of Phil Collins classic song, 'Another Day in Paradise', which is about the stark realities of being destitute, in the hope of helping to "raise awareness of the homeless crisis" in Ireland.

Read More

Michael Stipe Reveals Plans For Exciting Photo Book

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. With this in mind, the former R.E.M. frontman is planning to tell parts of his own amazing story in the form of an autobiographical photo book.

Read More

Imelda May will join Tower Records for an exclusive in-store album signing

The Dublin singer will sign copies of her album in the store on April 8.

Read More

Longest Greenway in Ireland to officially open Saturday

The €15 million project stretches 46km from Waterford City to Dungarvan.

Read More

Interskalactic announce EP release and tour dates

Read More

Elton John’s 70th Birthday to be celebrated with fund-raising gala

The 'Your Song'-singer celebrates his birthday in LA, raising money for two worthy causes, his AIDS Foundation and the ULCA Hammer Museum.

Read More

Ed Sheeran's grasp on the Singles Chart remains firm

The Suffolk singer occupies five spots in the Top 10.

Read More

Drake enters the Irish Album Charts at No.2

New playlist More Life fails to budge Ed Sheeran from top spot.

Read More

Little Steven And The Disciples of Soul Announce Venue Change

Band will now play Vicar Street, Dublin.

Read More

LISTEN: Kendrick Lamar releases new song 'The Heart Part 4'

The new track hints at the release date for his upcoming album.

Read More

Here's what's coming to Netflix in April

Your trailer-by-trailer guide to the new Netflix arrivals.

Read More

London Grammar Announce New Album Truth Is A Beautiful Thing

The second album from the Nottingham trio is due on June 9.

Read More

Major Companies Pull Adverts From YouTube

Two major US companies have decided to suspend their advertising campaigns on YouTube over concerns that their ads were being displayed next to disturbing extremist video clips.

Read More

Russia Rejects Eurovision Compromise

The state-owned Russian TV station has rejected outright a proposal by Eurovision to have their entry perform via satellite - following the contentious decision by Ukraine to ban Yulia Samoilova from entering the country to sing at the contest.

Read More

Gorillaz Are Back!

The world’s most successful virtual band, who have just uploaded a new music video on social media, have also just announced details about their highly anticipated new studio album titled 'Humanz', to be released by Parlophone Records on 28 April.

Read More

Rebekka Karijord announces Dublin concert at Unitarian Church

Norwegian artist Rebekka Karijord has announced that she will return to Dublin this May in support of her acclaimed new album Mother Tongue.

Read More

The Winter Passing premiere 'Significance' from upcoming EP

Irish indie-punk quartet The Winter Passing have released the second single from their Double Exposure EP.

Read More

KnockanStockan to host series of gigs across Ireland this year

First show on May 12th

Read More

Electric Picnic tickets sold out at record speed as headliners announced today

The Stradbally Festival seems to grow in both acclaim and demand every year, with 2017 being no exception.

Read More

Bob Dylan says he's a fan of Imelda May

The Nobel Laureate cited the Dubliner as one of the musicians he'd been enjoying in recent months.

Read More

Waterboys fiddler Steve Wickham to release second solo album

'Beekeeper' to be released May 12.

Read More

Steel Yard Festival London: Line-up announced

This sister festival to the long-standing Creamfields Festival, Steel Yard will take place in Victoria Park London during the Sunday May 28 Bank Holiday Weekend.

Read More

Boy George, Gary Lineker, Lily Allen & Nicki Minaj among those reacting to Westminster attack

It's emerged that an Irish national was injured in yesterday's atrocity.

Read More

Gorillaz are releasing new music tonight

New music to be released ahead of fourth album

Read More

REVIEW: The Kinks: Sunny Afternoon at Dublin's Bord Gáis Energy Theatre

Musical nostalgiafests really don't come any better!

Read More

A Date For Mad Mary's Seána Kerslake stars in the Hot Press Best of Ireland special

Miriam O'Callaghan, Al Porter, Catherine Fulvio, Gavan Henegan & Aidan Gillen also feature in our essential going-out guide!

Read More

The xx, A Tribe Called Quest & Duran Duran confirmed as Electric Picnic headliners

The first major line-up announcement has just been made!

Read More

Plans For David Bowie Memorial Sadly Axed

A big fundraising push by David Bowie fans to erect a sculpture in the shape of the 'ZiggyZag' iconic lightning bolt from the 'Aladdin Sane' album cover near his birthplace in London has sadly failed to raise enough cash for the ambitious dream project.

Read More

Reese Witherspoon Discovers Irish Heritage

The Legally Blonde actress was shocked to discover that she is 63% Irish after undertaking a genetic test, she revealed on the popular Conan O'Brien's chat show.

Read More

Stephanie Rainey Unveils New Powerful Music Video About Mental Health

Outstanding Irish newcomer Stephanie Rainey has revealed the brand new video for her latest single ‘100 Like Me’, which deals with themes such as anxiety, bipolar, depression, psychosis and addiction.

Read More

RTÉ overhaul as the broadcaster announces job losses, land sale and restructuring

The broadcaster's director general also confirmed that 200 or more jobs will be lost.

Read More

WATCH: Conor J. O'Brien stars in the new episode of This Ain't No Disco

He's been whisked off to New York to meet composer Nico Muhly.

Read More

Mike McCormack's Solar Bones shortlisted for Kerry Group Novel of the Year

He's up against Neil Hegarty, Kit DE Waal, Emma Donoghue & Conor O'Callaghan.

Read More

Johnny Marr reunites with The The for Record Store Day

Smiths guitarist reunites with legendary post-punk band.

Read More

LISTEN: Chuck Berry's posthumous new single 'Big Boy' from his final album

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and soul singer Nathaniel Rateliff help out on the track, which is taken from Chuck Berry's forthcoming album Chuck.

Read More

Best Of Ireland 2017 - Featured Establishment's Offer

If you want more then one copy of Best of Ireland (and if you're in it you should!) we've created a special set of discounted bundles.

Read More

Full line-up for MusicTown 2017 announced

Now in its third year, MusicTown celebrates the rich music heritage and contemporary artistic lifeblood of Dublin City.

Read More

EXCLUSIVE: Clare Sands shares her new single 'Join Me At The Table'

The Cork-based musician drops the video for the second single from her debut album.

Read More

Filmmaker Werner Herzog coming to Dublin for a public interiew

The German director will come as part of the International Literature Festival in Dublin.

Read More

U2 release 'Red Hill Mining Town' for Record Store Day

Primal Scream, The Doors, Sia, The Cure, Iggy Pop & David Holmes are also getting in on the act!

Read More

TLC's "No Scrubs" songwriters given credits to Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You"

Following allegations that Sheeran plagiarised his hit song "Shape of You" from the TLC classic "No Scrubs," the credits to the song have been revised.

Read More

Grace & Frankie Season 3 Premieres This Friday

Netflix's popular comedy 'Grace and Frankie', which stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, will return to the streaming service with a new season of 13 episodes this weekend.

Read More

Top Irish Acts To Rock Against Homelessness

HamsandwicH, Finbar Furey, Paul Brady, Delorentos, The Blizzards, Paul Cleary, Ivy Nations, and August Wells will perform at a charity fundraiser gig in Dublin on 7 April.

Read More

The War On Drugs will release new music next month

The band will return with new record 'Thinking of a Place' on Record Store Day.

Read More

P!NK announced at Sziget Festival

Sziget Festival has announced that P!ink will once again headline at the Island of Freedom festival this summer.

Read More

Peter Hook announces Limerick, Dublin & Belfast dates

There will be Joy Division classics aplenty!

Read More

On The Fringes of Peace: Martin McGuinness Interviewed in 1990

In the early '90s, just as the seeds of the peace process were starting to take root in republican circles, freelance journalist and former IRA member Shane O'Doherty met Martin McGuinness for a frank discussion about terrorism, negotiation and the republican endgame.

Read More

Maverick Sabre live at The Bowery this April

The Bowery have today announced that Maverick Sabre will perform his first Irish show of 2017 in their venue.

Read More

The Hot Press Best of Ireland Special is out now!

A Date For Mad Mary's Seána Kerslake is our cover star...

Read More

The Big Bang Theory renewed for two more seasons

The hit show will be returning after its 10th season for 2 more years.

Read More

Alison Moyet announces new album, upcoming tour

The legendary Alison Moyet will be touring her new album this spring.

Read More

Colin Farrell to star as Oliver North in Iran-Contra drama

It's one of two upcoming projects that re-unites him with the director of The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos.

Read More

BARQ, HAWK, and Harbouring Oceans to set out on their own Big Giant Head tour

The three acts will be playing gigs throughout Ireland and the U.K this spring.

Read More

Elaine Mai releases new video for remix of Liza Flume's "Sheets"

Read More

Political figures react to the death of Martin McGuinness

Politicians from both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland, as well as international figures from further afield, have offered their condolences for the peace maker, while a few dissenting voices have reminding people about Martin McGuinness' history in the IRA.

Read More

Martin McGuinness Has Passed Away

The former IRA leader turned peacemaker and statesman, who was Sinn Féin's chief negotiator in the peace process, died this morning at the age of 66-years-old, following a short illness with a rare heart disease that was diagnosed only back in December.

Read More

Boyce Avenue for Olympia Theatre

Boyce Avenue have today announced that they will perform live at The Olympia Theatre this November.

Read More

Document: A Film About Malojian is available to watch today

Northern Irish band Malojian documented their intensive recording sessions for their new album This Is Nowhere over the course of four days. You can watch the full-length documentary from those sessions here.

Read More

Boyce Avenue announce Olympia Theatre show

Group will play Dublin this Winter

Read More

Lewis Watson unveils video for new single 'Deep The Water'

The Oxford-based singer releases single from upcoming midnight

Read More

Kasabian announce Olympia Theatre show

Tickets go on sale next Friday at 9am

Read More

Chasing Abbey release new single 'That Good Thing'

Freshly formed in 2016, Tullamore group Chasing Abbey bring a unique pop, dance and hip-hop style to the fore.

Read More

Foy Vance announces his biggest headliner yet in Belfast's Custom House Square

The Bangor singer will also be joined by special uests Amy MacDonald, Ryan McMullan & David C Clements.

Read More

Mark Ronson and Air will headline Beatyard Festival 2017

The seaside festival has just released its headliners for its two days in August.

Read More

Kim Kardashian Feared Being Killed During Robbery

The reality TV star has told how she genuinely feared she was going to be raped and shot dead during the infamous Paris robbery last October, which resulted in the theft of $10million worth of her jewellery.

Read More

Liam Gallagher Attacks Brother Noel On Twitter

The ex-Oasis singer took to Twitter on Sunday night to reveal the name of the first single from his eagerly awaited album and, in the process, also decided to have yet another pop at his brother Noel.

Read More

Chuck Berry Has Passed Away

Rock 'n' Roll legend Chuck Berry, who was famous for such classic hits as 'Johnny B. Goode', 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and 'Roll Over Beethoven', has died at the age of 90.

Read More

Deluxe Edition Of Maren Morris Debut Album Is Out Today

The acclaimed singer/songwriter, who will play the Dublin Academy on 12 November, releases the deluxe edition of her critically acclaimed album 'Hero' today...

Read More

Kasabian Release New Single

Kasabian, who will hit Dublin's Olympia in April as part of their upcoming UK and Irish tour, have just released a new single, 'You're In Love With A Psycho'...

Read More

Season Two Of Master of None To Air In May

Actor Aziz Ansari has just announced on his social media pages that season two of the Emmy award-winning Netflix original series 'Master of None' will premiere exclusively on Netflix on 12 May.

Read More

A Night At The Opera

Northern Ireland Opera, in association with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, presents the Irish première and all-Ireland tour of Handel’s Radamisto.

Read More

Kilkenny Tradfest kicks off today

This year’s festival includes performances from Paul Brady (2017 headline act), Eleanor McEvoy, Beoga, Ushers Island, Pauline Scanlon and more.

Read More

Lineup announced for Sziget Festival

Wiz Khalifa, Rita Ora, Paul Van Dyk, The Vaccines and more will be on the Island of Freedom in Budapest for the festival this year, as well as Kasabian, Major Lazer, and Alt-J.

Read More

Mark Ronson & Air to headline Beatyard

August's Dun Laoghaire knees-up is starting to look seriously tasty...

Read More

David Rooney to play the Hot Spot Music Club

The songwriter will be taking his band and his art work to Greystones for a visual art/music show.

Read More

George Clinton to do his P-Funk thing in Vicar St.

The legendary American is over in May

Read More

James Blunt announces Dublin 3Arena show

Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol's Johnny McDaid both have co-writes on his new album

Read More

Hozier and Liam Neeson join celebrities in support of Irish Stand

The event, which will include performances from author Colum McCann and comedian Maeve Higgins will take place tomorrow, St. Patrick's Day, in New York City.

Read More

B*Witched Reunion To Mark 20th Anniversary

Irish pop group B*Witched are getting back together to mark the anniversary of their first UK number one hit single, 'C’est La Vie', which was released all the way back in 1998...

Read More

Suede Singer Pens Tell-All Memoir

Brett Anderson has just inked a major publishing deal for a kiss-and-tell memoir, it can be confirmed.

Read More

Orson Welles' Last Film To Finally See The Light Of Day

Movies buffs will be excited to hear that Netflix is acquiring the global rights and will finance the completion and restoration of legendary filmmaker Orson Welles’ last film, 'The Other Side of the Wind'.

Read More

Adam Clayton to receive MusiCares Addiction Recovery Award

The U2 bassist will be honoured at the MAP Fund benefit concert in NYC on June 26.

Read More

WATCH: The new trailer for Despicable Me 3

A new two-and-a-half minutes long trailer for Despicable Me 3 has been released by Universal Pictures and it shows Gru meeting his twin brother Dru.

Read More

WATCH: The Shins perform 'Name For You' on Stephen Colbert

The Shins performed on the primetime chat show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in support of their new album Heartworms.

Read More

Ed Sheeran and Stormzy join artists supporting the Love Music Hate Racism campaign

Read More

Feist returns with new album Pleasure

Canadian indie-pop singer Feist will release her first album in over five years this April.

Read More

The Matrix is set to get a reboot

The revolutionising sci-fi trilogy is set to be dredged up by Warner Bros., with Michael B. Jordan rumoured for the leading role.

Read More

LISTEN: The Cranberries give an acoustic take on 'Linger'

Ahead of the release of the new album Something Else, this April, The Cranberries have come together for an acoustic rendition of one of their most famous songs.

Read More

Depeche Mode on white supremacist Richard Spencer: 'He's a cunt'

The English electronic band aren't beating around the bush...

Read More

Grandmaster Flash set for Dublin

One of hip-hop's pioneers is making his way to the Academy next month.

Read More

Day-By-Day Breakdown of Forbidden Fruit Announced

Here's the day-to-day breakdown of 2017's Forbidden Fruit, as well as a few additional acts.

Read More

Albert Hammond announces new album and Dublin show

The Gibraltarian singer-songwriter will be making his way to the 3Arena this September.

Read More

Trump responds to Snoop Dogg video

The new American president responded to Snoop Dogg's new video the only way he knows how- in 140 characters or less.

Read More

Josh Ritter To Auction Off Guitars For Charity

If you're a Josh Ritter fan, it will no doubt be music to your ears to hear that the popular singer-songwriter is auctioning off two of his much beloved acoustic guitars for worthy causes.

Read More
 

Advertise With Us


For information including benefits, key facts, figures and rates for advertising with Hot Press, click below

Advertise

Find us elsewhere