About the Theatre

By Freya Clare Smith and Hugh Denard (2015)

The third Theatre Royal, designed by Leslie C. Norton (London) and executed by Scott & Good (Dublin), was a vast 4,000-seat theatre located on Hawkins Street, Dublin. It was demolished in 1962 and replaced by perhaps what can be considered as one of the ugliest buildings in Dublin – “Hawkins House” [1], formerly occupied by the Department of Health. This is now due itself to be demolished to make way for the “Apollo House” redevelopment incorporating a new complex of buildings on the sizeable footprint of the former theatre and cinema building complex that once occupied this space. An opportune moment to incorporate memories into the new build of the theatres that had a long standing tradition at this location and particularly of the third Theatre Royal, which holds such a special place in the hearts and memories of a large section of the Irish population, from past audience members, performers and staff to their descendants, whose lives have been permeated by the wonderful stories and recollections of attending shows and working here.

Image: © Dublin City Library & Archive (DCLA)
The Fáilte Ireland Tourism Photographic Collection

The third Theatre Royal, built here in 1935 and incorporating elements of the second Theatre Royal, had a beautifully simplistic and clean-cut Art Deco façade adorned by Laurence Campbell sculptures, colourful theatre masks and red neon signage. Somewhat of a design juxtaposition with the exterior, its grand marble foyer led into a lavishly detailed Moorish-styled auditorium, which was based on a study of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. As attested to through commemorative practices, such as Conor Doyle’s well-received and long-running musical show, as well as inclusion and appearances of the theatre on Nationwide and Reeling in the Years, the Theatre Royal occupies an important place in the social and cultural memory of twentieth-century Ireland. Together with other buildings used for a range of functions associated with the theatre and its neighbouring Regal Cinema it formed a large, multi-purpose entertainment complex, which was the setting for a variety of uses including theatrical, musical and other spectacular events, film premiers, dances and boxing matches. It was amongst the largest venues in Europe at the time, and attracted star acts by household names from the UK and beyond. In the short video below, Martin Duffy recalls some of his and his family’s wonderful memories of the Theatre Royal.

Martin Duffy (writer and director) remembers the Theatre Royal

And in 2012, a four part radio programme was produced by Aine Clancy, Susan Tomelty and Conor Doyle to highlight some of the memories and stories of the performers who appeared on the famous Theatre Royal stage, family and friends of people who worked there and patrons of the theatre. Courtesy of NEAR fm, you can listen to these wonderful programmes below:




FP7Supported by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme