seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Opening of the Gaiety Theatre

The Gaiety Theatre, a theatre on South King Street in Dublin off Grafton Street and close to St. Stephen’s Green, opens on November 27, 1871 with John Spencer, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, as guest of honour and a double bill of the comedy She Stoops to Conquer and a burlesque version of La Belle Sauvage. Designed by architect Charles J. Phipps and built in under seven months, it specialises in operatic and musical productions, with occasional dramatic shows.

The Gaiety is extended by theatre architect Frank Matcham in 1883, and, despite several improvements to public spaces and stage changes, it retains several Victorian era features and remains Dublin’s longest-established, continuously producing theatre.

Patrick Wall and Louis Elliman purchase the theatre in 1936 and run it for several decades with local actors and actresses. They sell it in 1965, and in the 1960s and the 1970s the theatre is run by Fred O’Donovan and the Eamonn Andrews Studios, until Joe Dowling, former artistic director of the Abbey Theatre, becomes director of the Gaiety in the 1980s. In the 1990s Groundwork Productions take on the lease and the theatre is eventually bought by the Break for the Border Group. The Gaiety is purchased by music promoter Denis Desmond and his wife Caroline in the late 1990s, who undertake a refit of the theatre. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism also contributes to this restoration fund.

Performers and playwrights associated with the theatre have been celebrated with hand-prints cast in bronze and set in the pavement beneath the theatre canopy. These handprints include those of Luciano Pavarotti, Brendan Grace, Maureen Potter, Twink, John B. Keane, Anna Manahan, Niall Tóibín and Brian Friel.

The theatre plays host to the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest, the first to be staged in Ireland, during the Gaiety’s centenary year. Clodagh Rodgers, a contestant in that particular contest, later presents her RTÉ television series The Clodagh Rodgers Show from the theatre in the late 1970s.

The Gaiety is known for its annual Christmas pantomime and has hosted a pantomime every year since 1874. Actor and director Alan Stanford directs both Gaiety productions of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Irish entertainer June Rodgers stars in the Gaiety pantomime for years, until she begins to headline the equally established Olympia Theatre panto. The Gaiety shows have included Irish performers that appeal to home grown audiences, including a number of Fair City actors. Pantomimes in the 21st century have included versions of Mother Goose (2006), Beauty and the Beast (2007), Cinderella (2008), Jack and the Beanstalk (2009), Aladdin (2010), Robinson Crusoe (2011/12), Peter Pan (2013/14), Red Riding Hood (2014/15).


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Birth of Comedian Hal Roach

hal-roach-write-it-downHal Roach, prominent Irish comedian, is born in Waterford on November 4, 1927. He spends over 60 years in show business, and is featured in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest-running engagement of a comedian at the same venue: 26 years at Jury’s Irish Cabaret, Jury‘s Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin.

Born John Roach, he attends the Manor C.B.S. school. He begins his career after winning a local talent competition as a boy soprano. He initially tours with an illusionist and specialises in magic, but later moves to comedy. Roach has been cited as a major influence by other comedians such as Brendan Grace.

A couple of typical Hal Roach jokes go like this:

“He told me that I have a cult following, at least I think that’s what he said.”

“There is a man sitting in the middle of the road casting his fishing line… now none of us is perfect, but c’mon! So I asked him, ‘How many have you caught today?’ He said, ‘You’re the ninth.'”

Perhaps his most famous catchphrase is “Write it down, it’s a good one!”

Roach is popular particularly with American tourists visiting Ireland. His act plays heavily on traditional tourist imagery of Ireland and on Irish jokes. Several of his shows have been released on cassette and CD, and they are popular with tour bus drivers in several English-speaking countries who play them to passengers to help pass the time between destinations.

After suffering from a long bout of ill health, Roach dies on February 28, 2012. The following month, RTÉ broadcasts a tribute to Roach in one of its graveyard slots, a repeat airing of a programme from the That’s Entertainment series first broadcast in 1972.