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The forgotten theatre of Rupert Guinness

 By Aislinn McCooey

The Rupert Guinness Theatre, or The Rupert Guinness Hall as it is sometimes known, is situated beside the James’ Gate brewery on Watling Street in the heart of the Liberties.

The theatre was once a major landmark in Dublin City Centre but now sits empty and neglected, falling into a state of disrepair like so many old buildings in the area.

The hall was named for the second Lord Iveagh it was opened in May 1951 and the first performance it played host to was a production of Sean O’Casey’s “shadow of a gunman”.

After the Abbey Theatre burned down, the Rupert Guinness hall was given to the Abbey theatre free of charge for three months between July and September 1951.

The Abbey then moved to the former home of the Queens theatre on Pearse Street.  During this time a production of the “plough and the stars” was put on.

Managing director of the Abbey, Mr Ernest Blythe, said that at the time “We may regard the help that has been given to the Abbey as another of the numerous benefactions which we owe to the firm and to the Guinness family.  They are very great indeed”.

The hall was state of the art for the time and boasted eight dressing rooms, wardrobe and property rooms and also a telemaster signalling system between the stage and the rest of the theatre.

The hall could seat 600 people and also had level oak floors so that it could be used as a dance hall.

As far as could be found out there are currently no plans to refurbish the Guinness theatre which is a great shame as it played an important role in the history of Irish theatre and it is a great waste to see this once beautiful building be forgotten.

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