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...
Irish fight fans will be thrilled to learn that a Dublin cinema will be showing the Notorious One's fight with Mayweather live on the big screen.Read More
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality, Immigration and Integration Fiona O’Loughlin TD has raised concern over the treatment of second level students in Direct Provision scheme for young asylum seekers who wish to progress to third level.Read More
A Northern Irish judge has rejected two challenges to the same-sex ban in the country.Read More
Radiohead drummer Philip Selway's new album Let Me Go is the soundtrack for the film of the same name.Read More
Mitchell and Webb make a return in a new sitcom called Back, airing on Channel 4.Read More
Lowery discusses his writer's playlist (more Kesha than you'd think), Rooney Mara's infamous pie-eating scene, and getting Casey Affleck to spend most of the film hidden under a sheet.Read More
Not everybody is happy about the current occupiers of the slot being replaced...Read More
Step into a world of insanityRead More
As the north/south border becomes an ever-increasing sticking point for Brexit negotiations, the Minister for Foreign Affairs sought to clarify Ireland's role within the EU.Read More
His mother shared the album on Twitter, calling him "as talented as his father.”Read More
The xx, A Tribe Called Quest, Duran Duran, Annie Mac, The Divine Comedy, John Connors and Phil Jupitus are all on the menu for our special issue ahead of September's Stradbally weekender!Read More
Adam Matthews & Niamh Farrell are also on board for the Vicar St. ghouls night out in OctoberRead More
The R&B megastar has finally opened up about assaulting his then partner Rihanna back in 2009, confessing that he felt like a "fucking monster" for carrying out the horrifying attack.Read More
Next week's installment of Game of Thrones was accidentally uploaded by HBO Spain during the week!Read More
The Oscar winner is looking for two people to go out on the piss with! No, we're not making this up. It's all in the good name of charity, of course. As part of a competition, Jennifer Lawrence is offering to go out for an evening of fine wine and some finger food with two lucky people.Read More
American musician and founder of Electric Six Dick Valentine will appear at the East Side Tavern on August 29 for a solo, acoustic experience.Read More
Alan Kelly admits to being a dirty player on the football pitch, reveals that he’s been approached by Fine Gael to join them, criticises his party leader Brendan Howlin & reveals that not only does he still want to lead Labour but wants be Taoiseach some day too….Read More
The iconic rock-and-roll star died on August 16, 1977- read the two-part Hot Press tribute to the King here.Read More
He once famously quipped that he'd rather slash his wrists than reprise the role of James Bond, but Daniel Craig has now officially confirmed that he will be getting suited and booted to play the British spy again.Read More
The Government needs to put plans in place now to deal with the prospect of a prolonged weak sterling currency vis-à-vis the euro.Read More
Almost 170 defendants under the age of 18 faced drug related offences in court during the first five months of this year alone, Hot Press can reveal.Read More
Half-light is the name of Rostam's debut album, which will be out on 8 September. “It wasn't until I had almost finished this album and was trying to decide what I should call it that I took the time to look up the word ’half-light’,” Rostam says of the album’s title.Read More
The frontman for Bon Iver shared footage from a jam-packed, busy studio last night.Read More
The singer is in a jubilant mood this morning after she won her sexual assault case against an arrogant and ill-mannered DJ Mueller, who disgustingly groped her bottom at a photo taken as part of a public meet-and-greet event back in 2013Read More
Harrison Ford's character was killed off by his own son in his last appearance in the Star Wars franchise, but his beloved Han Solo character will be back in the next movie as a ghost!Read More
This is the third track to be released from the British's band impending second album, 'Visions Of A Life', which is due out on 29 September.Read More
The popular Wild Atlantic Way village of Doolin is readying itself for an influx of Craft Beer aficionadas and ‘roots music’ enthusiasts as it prepares for the sixth annual Craft Beer & Roots Festival, which takes place on the last weekend of the month (25-27August).Read More
This is something all dyed-in-the-wool fans of the King will absolutely love: a pop quiz with a twist...Read More
Hard Working Class Heroes have announced their line-up for HWCH17.Read More
Tickets for all three of LCD Soundsystem's Olympia Theatre shows next month sold out in the blink of an eye.Read More
The concert included performances from Future and Jeremih, as well as a message of support from Barack Obama.Read More
The Oscar winning actress Brie Larson reveals that she almost walked away from her acting career before appearing in the movie adaptation of Room by Emma Donoghue...Read More
The growing fear of Brexit is already having a negative impact on tourism in Ireland, with the latest figures showing a dramatic decrease in the number of UK tourists visiting our shores this summer.Read More
After a couple of sold-out Irish shows last year and headline sets at Sea Sessions alongside a sell-out at The Galway Arts Festival, Badly Drawn Boy, or Damon Gough as he’s known to by his Mum, makes a return to Dublin for an exclusive show.Read More
EDX continues to celebrate 25-Year milestone with new single 'Daybreak'.Read More
There will be (metaphorical) Sten guns in D2 in October when that riotous day is recalled.Read More
The inaugural bash takes place in Limerick from October 5-15.Read More
He'll be treating RTÉ lyric FM listeners to ten hours of eclectic tunes every week...Read More
The 80s-set comedy will be back for another round.Read More
Check out the latest trailer for the upcoming season.Read More
Seeing as he's one of the biggest sport stars on the planet at the moment, it was only a matter of time before somebody penned a song about Conor McGregor.Read More
Good news for Virgin Media Ireland subscribers: it will be adding UKTV Play to its catalogue of catch up services from today... making over 1,000 additional hours of catch up TV available to its customers.Read More
It was only a matter of time before the two brothers behind such cult classics as 'Fargo', 'The Big Lebowski', 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' and countless others decided to jump on the band wagon and do their very own TV show for Netflix.Read More
International pop icon P!nk has just released the first single from her forthcoming album due out on 13 October.Read More
The French DJ is the latest artist to be announced for the October festival.Read More
He'll be reciting 'St. Anthony: An Ode To Anthony H Wilson’ on Sunday in Dublin...Read More
The show will take place Sunday, December 10th.Read More
The Electric Sideshow line-up has just been announced, and dead tasty it is!Read More
"Ginger is receiving around the clock care ", a spokesperson says...Read More
We know just the place if The Boss would like to get up to similar solo hi-jinx in Dublin...Read More
Paul Brady has announced an Ireland-wide tour for November, following the release of his new album Unfinished Business.Read More
Principal photography has commenced on the darkly comedic spoken word odyssey 'Dublin Oldschool', adapted from the highly successful stage play that won critical acclaim both at home and abroad.Read More
As the Women's Rugby World Cup kicked off here yesterday, one keen rugby player and coach tells Hot Press that the tournament provides a great opportunity for both the IRFU and Ireland to leave a “real sporting legacy”.Read More
Exactly 50 years since playing newlyweds in ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ Oscar winners Robert Redford and Jane Fonda have come together onscreen again for the fourth time in Netflix’s ‘Our Souls at Night’… this time playing a couple who find love unexpectedly later in life.Read More
Gallagher tweeted an exclusive a-capella version of the new song today, with promises of more new music coming this week.Read More
It's proper good shiz, innit?Read More
The iconic singer would be 53 today.Read More
Electric Ireland are bringing 90s nostalgia to the 'Throwback Stage' at Electric Picnic.Read More
Gallagher did throw some other words in that sentence that aren't exactly fit for headlines.Read More
The Irish balladeer is set to play Workman's on November 8.Read More
The singer spent a night in the cells following a gig in Ballymena.Read More
Andy Irvine, Don Baker, Brendan Power and Seamie O’Dowd are some of the artists due to play open-air concerts at Cloughjordan Amphitheatre on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th of September.Read More
It's time to make a cuppa and put your feet up for an hour...Read More
It's obvious that his genius transcended generations...Read More
"He was my big brother, my protector, my co-culprit, my John crying in the wilderness," he reflects...Read More
The National have just released the third track from their eagerly anticipated new album ‘Sleep Well Beast’, which is out on 8 September.Read More
Leo Varadkar’s government is being urged to publish long-promised sectoral plans in light of UK Prime Minister May’s commitment to end free movement in March 2019.Read More
David Letterman, the longest-serving host in U.S. late night television is returning to television for a new series on Netflix.Read More
As Ireland faces increased risk of attack, new figures given to Hot Press reveal that there has been a decrease in numbers allocated to the Garda Cyber Crime Bureau.Read More
The Wicklow native is the latest to join a stellar lineup - including Ed Sheeran, Esperanza Spalding, and more - playing gigs around the world for a great cause.Read More
According to a new Facebook post, Sinéad O'Connor is safe and surrounded by love.Read More
A new initiative has been launched to help women in the music industry make it on their own terms.Read More
There's some potentially great news for rock & indie fans around the country...Read More
The Belgian duo will join Annie Mac, Eats Everything, Mele and Kelly Anne-Byrne at Day 1 of Samhain Festival on October 28.Read More
Hot Press had a great natter with the Rolling Stone, who's thankfully now on the mend, a while back...Read More
It seems that HBO needs to replace The Wall with a firewall.Read More
It's the U2 guitarist's birthday today, take a look back at the Hot Press interview with the man himself from 2007.Read More
The troubled singer has revealed in an emotional video that she is struggling with thoughts of suicide and feels lonely.Read More
The colourful Kerry TD famously told us here at Hot Press last year that Noah's Ark was "proof" that God was in the charge of the weather. And he's now at it again by telling people that he believes in fairies too!Read More
Luas operator Transdev is being urged to amend its bye-laws to ensure cyclists can use their trams during off-peak hours.Read More
Filming of the Oscar winning director's new movie project about the infamous H-Block escape back in ’83 has been postponed at the eleventh hour after financing for it fell through.Read More
God knows how he finds the time in his ultra busy schedule, but Ed Sheeran has a not only penned the first single off Jamie Lawson’s new album but is also releasing it on his own record label Gingerbread Man Records.Read More
The Cork actor will join the iconic actress Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson in a period drama based on a novel by Henry James, it has just been announced.Read More
The TV presenter and actress has officially confirmed to Hot Press that she's now dating Iain Stirling, who hosts 'Love Island'.Read More
The controversial TV personality was rushed to hospital while in Spain during the weekend with pneumonia.Read More
The controversial US President has such a grá for the Emerald Isle that he'll probably make several trips over here during his presidency, according to his son.Read More
The Twilight star has backtracked on claims that he rejected out of hand to show a dog a ‘good time’ for a scene in his new movie, appropriately enough entitled ‘Good Time’!Read More