120 years a-growing: Cork's Everyman theatre celebrates landmark

Nostalgia ruled at The Everyman theatre last night as it celebrated its 120th birthday and those attending the commemoration recalled the giant names in entertainment who trod the boards there, including Charlie Chaplin and George Formby.

120 years a-growing: Cork's Everyman theatre celebrates landmark

The 650-seat theatre, opened in 1897 by Dan Lowrey as the Cork Palace of Varieties, was a jewel of late Victorian architecture and today is protected as a listed building.

The Henry Brunton-designed ‘Music Hall’ had a stained-glass street canopy, several licensed bars, ornate ceiling and elaborate gilt boxes.

On the opening night the chairman, John O’Connell, said it was “without question the prettiest, most commodious, and best-equipped place of entertainment in Ireland”.

From 1897 until the 1920s, variety programmes were the dominant attraction and later pantomime, opera and drama productions were put on by many touring repertory companies.

Artists who performed there during this period include Charlie Chaplin, Marie Lloyd, Sandow the strong man (famously featured on a Murphy’s Stout advert of the time), Old Mother Riley, George Formby and Jimmy O’Dea.

In the 1930s, music hall and live performances gave way to cinema and the Everyman served as the city’s major cinema until the 1980s, primarily because its design provided the best acoustics in town.

But with the advent of the video recorder the numbers attending films began to steadily drop and those running the Everyman sought a new future.

In 1988, the Everyman Theatre Company, which had been presenting top-quality drama in Cork at a variety of venues, took on the challenge of saving the listed building for its original theatrical purpose and the theatre re-opened as the Everyman Palace.

Today the Everyman, which is run as a not-for-profit organisation, is one of the leading presenting and producing theatres in Ireland, aspiring to be a beacon of inspirational storytelling and performance.

“The Everyman is a monument to the great cultural heritage in Cork City, as well as a beacon for contemporary performing arts culture in all its shapes and forms,” its artistic director Julie Kelleher said.

“We count ourselves extremely lucky to be the custodians of its past, and the stewards of its future, and we take tremendous heart in knowing that the people of Cork have supported the building for 120 years.”

Programme details on everymancork.com

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