Saluting 125 years of The Everyman theatre in Cork

In her weekly column, Theatre Nights, Jo Kerrigan recalls the early days of Cork Palace and Everyman Theatre, which marks a milestone this year
Saluting 125 years of The Everyman theatre in Cork

ALL TOGETHER AGAIN: The Everyman team, from left, front row to back: Louise Murray, Rachel Flynn, Sophie Motley (Artistic Director), Spoon (the dog), Seán Kelly (Executive Director and CEO), Anna Marie Coughlan, Jenny Keane, Christine O’Callaghan, Aoife Clarke, Seán Spillane, Maev O’Shea, Ruby Moore, Robbie Cotter, Sinéad Murphy, Yvonne O’Sullivan, Paula O’Connor, James Enright, Ian Brown, Jean Kearney, Valdone Talutyte Masiene, Freddy Regan, Émilie Péneau, Mark Donovan, Alison White, Chris Hopcraft, Aoife Byrne, Naomi Daly, Seamus Hegarty.

WE have a 125th anniversary celebration in our midst! On Easter Monday night, April 19, 1897, the Cork Palace of Varieties opened on MacCurtain Street (then known as King Street).

Described by its chairman as “without question the prettiest, most commodious, and best equipped place of entertainment in Ireland”, it had the novelty of being lighted by the new and exciting medium of electricity, installed by Messrs Handley & Shanks.

The opening night was a great success according to The Era, that stalwart of theatrical news, with a programme that included Professor Jolly with his Cinematographe (an early appearance of this new phenomenon which would eventually grow to take over the theatre), a child ingénue called Little Daisy Palmer; a team of lady vocalists and dancers known as Tiller’s Eight Champions; Mdlle Alma on the electric globe (can’t imagine!); Mr Millis, a ventriloquist, and more.

The Era took particular note of the splendid stage boxes (still, happily, there today) describing them as being of exquisite design and workmanship, with panels above painted by Cork artist Samuel Wright.

(Incidentally, that same opening night, the Opera House was hosting the renowned Edward Compton company - from which sound theatrical backing actress Fay Compton and writer Compton Mackenzie sprang - with an adaption of Thackeray’s The History Of Henry Esmond. Just thought you might like to know.)

Over the years, variety shows and music hall (with the occasional boxing tournament) kept the Palace busy until it became one of the city’s major cinemas for almost 50 years. It kept on the theatrical side, though, with Everyman and James N. Healy musicals, as well as touring companies, alternating with the silver screen.

(It has always been held among those who know their city, that the theatrical side was kept on solely because it allowed the Palace to retain also its drinking licence and that hugely popular bar.)

The beautiful listed building closed its doors in 1988, but in 1990 Everyman Theatre Company took on the challenge of saving it for its original theatrical purpose, re-launching it as the Everyman Palace Theatre (now simply The Everyman).

The recent lockdown was as hard on The Everyman as the rest of us, even more so as theatres simply have to have audiences to survive.

But earlier this month, the team gathered in the auditorium for the first time in just over two years to mark that 125th anniversary.

Executive director Sean Kelly and artistic director Sophie Motley now look confidently to the next 125 years, and to the artists, audiences, and communities who will shape the future of culture in Cork city and county.

Meanwhile, the shows go on! Friends, The Musical opened on Tuesday at The Everyman and is bouncing its lively way through until Saturday, giving all fans of the legendary TV show a delightful sense of déjà vu - with songs added!

More info on www.friendsthemusical.co.uktarget="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">, but to book tickets for the Cork show, see www.everymancork.com or call 021 450 1673.

Neil Delamere is at the Opera House tonight, closely followed by impressionist Oliver Callan tomorrow (Friday) and The Legend of Luke Kelly on Saturday night, with Chris Kavanagh bringing the musical legend back to life.

On Sunday, with a morning performance at 11am, and an afternoon show at 4pm, Studio Wolfe brings the talent of the future to the stage with Dance Celebration 2022.

Tuesday sees The Three Amigos at the Opera House, and on Wednesday, May 3, comedian Rhod Gilbert with The Book of John.

What a marvellous mix. Plenty there to suit every theatregoing taste, wouldn’t you say?

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