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 member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment has called for the Taoiseach to unequivocally commit to holding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in the month of May.Read More
'Supplies' is the second song has just bw revealed from his forthcoming album ‘Man of the Woods’, which is being released on 2 February!Read More
The band will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut album, 'Feel No Shame', on the show tonight.Read More
The Oscar winning director has released a statement denying he sexually abused his adopted daughter when she was seven-years-old.Read More
Describing their performance at Eurosonic 2018 as "Miles Davis meets hard rock", Olaf Tyaransen chats to Robocobra Quartet about their unique brand of music.Read More
“My heart is broken and it is beyond repair. Dolores is beautiful," Olé says...Read More
Dylan Farrow has told of her "outrage", "hurt" and anger after "years of being ignored (and) disbelieved" about claims that she was sexually assaulted by the film director.Read More
Minister for Education Richard Bruton is being called on to address the findings contained in a recent ESRI study which shows significant regional disparity in the provision of PLC places across the country.Read More
For the first time ever, the number of passport applications received from Britain has exceeded the number received from the North: 81,287 and 80,964 respectively.Read More
The Oscar winner has admitted that he was wrong to air some controversial comments about the ongoing sex scandals in Hollywood.Read More
It's "imperative" that the Minister for Health brings in regulations to ensure that rogue crisis pregnancy agencies are no longer able to give dangerous advice to vulnerable women, urges Labour Party spokesperson on Health Promotion, Martina Genockey.Read More
A behind-the-secenes video of the musician and actor talking about his forthcoming album has just been shared on social mediaRead More
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is being asked to provide reassurance that an organisation closely linked with the "secretive cult-like" Church of Scientology will not be facilitated in setting up operations in a rural village in Meath.Read More
A new ferry route between Ringaskiddy and Santander in Northern Spain can link the Wild Atlantic Way with the Camino.Read More
The Cranberries singer was loved and respected throughout the industry...Read More
No Belfast and Dublin dates yet, but they will be happening!Read More
Grammy Award winner Edwin Hawkins, who was most famous for his arrangement of 'Oh Happy Day', has died at the age of 74.Read More
The Scottish band have just released the first song from their eagerly anticipated new album, which is out next month.Read More
All whose lives are affected by Brexit are being encouraged to make submissions to a specially established House of Commons Committee.Read More
The Heritage Council has today issued a call for funding applications under its Community Heritage Grant Scheme.Read More
It was an extraordinary night at the National Concert Hall...Read More
Duran Duran, Hozier and Kodaline are among those paying tribute to the Cranberries singer...Read More
It's awards season and we need you to get your nominations in for the Hot Press Reader's Poll. Everyone who nominates (in any section) will have the chance to win tickets to the IMRO Live Music Venue of the Year Awards.Read More
"Things are already outta control, well outta control," he told a not wholly surprised Liam Fay...Read More
Imelda May has provided us with photographic evidence!Read More
15-year-old Seán Hughes passed away on Friday.Read More
After a year of crisis in Irish theatre, the awards set down a marker as the celebration of Irish talent continues into its 21st year.Read More
Just €14.4 million has been allocated in Budget 2018 compared to allocations of €30.4 million and €14.4 million in 2016 and 2017 respectively.Read More
It’s time for Leo Varadkar to intervene and bring clarity to the roll out of the National Broadband Plan, says Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Timmy Dooley TD .Read More
Taylor Swift teams up with Ed Sheehan and Future in the new music video for her song 'End Game', which was just put up on media sites this morning.Read More
The 2018 programme will see seven productions over 38 nights in ten different locations across the country and in London.Read More
Fine Gael Senator and spokesman on EU Affairs, Neale Richmond is calling for a new referendum. He made his comments after arch Brexiteer Nigel Farage said on British television yesterday that their should be a second referendum in order to put any debates around the contentious issue, once and all, to bed.Read More
U2's documentary about the making of their latest album has just been uploaded onto their official social media pages.Read More
But the music icon insists that the show must go on despite his many health problems.Read More
The former Motörhead guitarist played on some of hard rock's defining albums...Read More
The letter begins: “Rape is a crime. But a persistent or clumsy come-on is not a crime, nor is gallantry a form of macho aggression.”Read More
We're also putting a sneaky tenner on Jim McGuinness! But there's growing speculation about Carlo Ancelotti...Read More
Video footage has emerged of the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul being hit twice on the face by a fan after he refused to pose for a selfie with him!Read More
Hot on the heels of winning his Golden Globe award for best actor in 'The Disaster Artist', there's been a flurry of graphic sexual misconduct allegations made on social media against the Hollywood star.Read More
Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has said that the Cabinet has "little or no freedom for manoeuvre on the nature" of the abortion referendum it has committed to hold.Read More
36-year-old Brandon Hixon, who was a Republican Idaho State Representative for District 10 in the A seat, has shot himself in the head after being forced to step down from his position while being investigated for sexual abuse.Read More
James Vincent McMorrow, Otherkin, Fangclub & Marlene Enright are part of a very fine bunch...Read More
"This is a complete lie, fabrication, no truth to it whatsoever," says the Hollywood icon about claims that he sexually harassed a former employee.Read More
Now 95-year-old Stan Lee, who created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men, has been accused of inappropriate behaviour by nurses who looked after him.Read More
The Irish actress's mother says she "couldn't be more proud" of her daughter after she won her first Golden Globe earlier this week.Read More
More effort is needed to raise "awareness about the damaging effects of social media on young people", according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne RabbitteRead More
Saoirse Ronan, Daniel Day-Lewis and London-Irish filmmaker Martin McDonagh have all been nominated for BAFTAs.Read More
Global superstar Justin Timberlake announced today that he will make his highly anticipated return to the stage with The Man Of The Woods Tour, starting in March (see below for full list).Read More
David Byrne yesterday announced his forthcoming solo record, 'American Utopia', during a presentation of “Reasons To Be Cheerful,” an ongoing series curated by Byrne of hopeful writings, photos, music, and lectures.Read More
Actress Saoirse Ronan's and writer/director Martin McDonagh's Golden Globe wins yesterday bodes well for Irish Oscar hopes, reckons Minister for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciaran Cannon.Read More
To celebrate what would have been the 71st birthday of David Bowie the previously unreleased ‘Let's Dance' (Demo) is being released as a very special digital-only single available for streaming and download.Read More
Hot Press Contributing Editor Roisin Dwyer talked to Chris when we were researching Philip Lynott – Still In Love With You, which celebrated the life and music of the great Philo.Read More
Lana Del Rey has confirmed that she is facing a legal battle with Radiohead over claims she plagiarised their song 'Creep'.Read More
Labour Youth is calling on the Minister for the Environment to reconsider his reappointment of Conor Skehan as Chair of the Housing Agency.Read More
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman makes what could be a pretty seismic bow on Friday January 12...Read More
The famous yé-yé singer, who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965, has passed away at the age of 70 following a battle with cancer.Read More
The former attorney general and businessman, who passed away last night, has been described as having been "one of the most outstanding personalities in modern Irish life".Read More
Rock legend Ray Thomas has died at the age of 76 following a battle with prostate cancer.Read More
The Irish government has been slammed over the shocking revelation that it will be a further five years before they manage to connect 537,587 rural homes and businesses to broadband under the National Broadband Plan.Read More
The controversial radio presenter, who stepped down from his daily radio slot after making outrageously offensive comments about sexual assault live on air last year, will return to the airwaves shortly with his own Saturday slot, it has just been announced.Read More
The Irish film and TV industry has received a major boost with the announcement that a new TV show adaptation of 'Nighflyers', which is based on author George R.R. Martin’s novella, is to be filmed here.Read More
The duo are dripping' in "Finesse" on their new remix collaboration that has just been released.Read More
Fire and Fury, a new book written by American journalist Michael Wolff, purports to reveal the dark (and dysfunctional) secrets of Trump's White House.Read More
A Gogetfunding page has been set up for Jovaine who insists he's innocent of gun charges brought against him.Read More
It's only just been released, but Will Smith is now planning to make a sequel to 'Bright'.Read More
Justin Timberlake is set to release his fourth studio album, Man Of The Woods on 2 February and the first single will be released tomorrow (5 January)Read More
The actress has announced that she's married her partner Emma Portner who appeared in the music video for Justin Bieber’s song ‘Life Is Worth Living’.Read More
From binge drinking and ketamine to meth and the new wave of chemsex drugs, we want you to have your say...Read More
It already features The Academic, Snow Patrol, Kodaline, Glen Hansard, EDEN & My Bloody Valentine, The New 52s, Theme Tune Boy, Anna Mitchell, The Stunning, The 202s, The Frantics and more...Read More
Mitch says that the spirit of his beloved daughter, who tragically died in 2011, visits him regularly and sits at the end of his bed.Read More
Preston North End star Kevin O’Connor, who has been capped at under-21 level for Ireland, has scored the main prize of €1million in the Lotto’s Christmas Millionaire Raffle.Read More
A Fine Gael Senator has sensationally "questioned Sinn Féin’s commitment to peace". The reason Senator Joe O’Reilly gives is because they "continue to sell IRA memorabilia on the party’s website to raise funds".Read More
There are a staggering 656 people waiting for a bed in hospital – that’s the highest number since records began, according to the latest stats from the Irish Nurses and Midwives revealRead More
Actress Bobette Riales has claimed that she was raped "repeatedly" by the popular actor, who's best known for his role in 'That 70s Shows',Read More
The former US President has compiled a list of his favourite music from 2017 and amongst his top picks is the Extraordinary Mix version of 'Ordinary Love' taken from the deluxe edition of U2's latest album, 'Songs of Experience'.Read More
The Irish public is being urged by the Seanad spokesman on EU Affairs' not to attend an anti-EU conference being held in Dublin next February.Read More
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications, Timmy Dooley is calling on Facebook to clarify that they are not engaging in partisan and preferential treatment of Government Ministers and advisors.Read More
The guitarist, who passed away unexpectedly on Christmas Day, will be remembered for his "knowledge, passion and generosity of spirit."Read More
Pat Carty was joined by Eleanor McEvoy, Thomas Walsh and Gavin Glass in paying tribute to the Heartbreaker-in-chief.Read More
"At that moment, I lost all respect for my beloved little brother. No matter what negative worrisome thoughts I had had about him before, that episode just reinforced and sealed the deal for me."Read More
Irish punk provocateurs The Sussed are number one for "all genres in Ireland" in the N1M music charts with their song 'Don't Swim On The East Coast'.Read More
You can now get odds of 25/1 that the Notorious will announce plans to throw his hat into the ring to succeed Michael D. Higgins as President in 2018!Read More
Bono has said that he feels like he's "the f**king luckiest man on Earth" after enduring a major health scare.Read More
Beyonce's sister has revealed that she's been secretly battling with an autonomic disorder for several months.Read More
One year after Carrie Fisher died suddenly at the relatively young age of 60, her Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill has paid a moving tribute to her, saying that she is "always with us".Read More
Musician Joy Villa, who is a big Donald Trump supporter and wore a "Make America Great Again" dress at this year's Grammys, has made the allegations against the US President's former top aide Corey Lewandowski.Read More
As the United States threatens a $285m reduction in the UN budget, the Irish Labour leader has said that he believes it might be time to consider moving the HQ's location from New York back to Europe.Read More
The Dublin comedian's show beat the likes of Strictly Come Dancing (second place), EastEnders (fourth place) and Coronation Street (seventh place) to the top spot with a staggering 6.8 million viewers.Read More
Here's a clip from 'U2 At The BBC' in which The Edge and Adam Clayton go record shopping with Cat Deeley.Read More
After years and years of waiting, the drummer is to be finally knighted by the Queen in the new year.Read More
Actress Heather Menzies, who is probably best known for playing one of the von Trapp children in 'The Sound of Music' movie, has passed away.Read More
It won't be released until next summer, but the first trailer for 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' has just been released.Read More
The 21-year-old singer has decided to cancel the gig after being urged to boycott Israel.Read More
Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly has said that he is deeply concerned by the rise in the number of undocumented Irish being detained and deported by US immigration officials in the run up to the Christmas.Read More