An evening in the life of the Tivoli


5.00pm It is the opening night of a show and the Tivoli is eerily empty. The aroma of fish and chips is overwhelming. Director Graham Watts will later inform me that this is the calm before the storm. I sit in the office and chat with Hannah Crouch and Isabelle Leclerq while they take advantage of this moment of calm to eat their chips from the new Borza’s shop on Thomas St.

As I’m leaving I’m introduced to Becky Gardiner, the stage manager, who lets me know that everyone is really hyper before running home to get changed for the show.

5.10pm I go and talk to director Graham Watts in the empty theatre. He tells me how Bouncers, the play currently in the Tivoli, was rehearsed in St. Nicolas’s church on Francis St. The ‘lovely ladies’ there made the cast lunch every day. He’s had a busy week of rehearsals and previews. Now that it is finally the opening night of the play things are starting to slow down. This is his seventh play at the Tivoli.

“It’s a gorgeous theatre. It’s very unusual how wide it is, it’s much wider than the Gate or the Abbey. The stage is so adaptable, you can move it around, close it in. I love it here, there’s plenty of room, so hopefully people come along to see the show.” He’s living on Thomas St while he’s in Dublin and says “If I look out my window, the amount of characters on the street is just fantastic. I really love the area.”

5.30 Philip Hayes, the sound engineer, is in what used to be the projection booth when the Tivoli was a cinema. This is his second show in the Tivoli, having worked on their production of Dracula last year. He says he loves the buzz of working in a live medium. “There’s a different audience every night. And obviously, there’s a huge potential for failure, so that creates some excitement,” he tells me. He runs off to ‘blast out some cheesy eighties hits’ to test the speakers. I wait in the empty theatre to listen.

5.40 Drama student Bill Collins shows up to watch the rehearsal. He’s been helping out with the play, and even though he can’t stay for the performance he wants to watch the rehearsal. Bill has lived on Thomas St for a couple of years and says he really likes the area. We talk about history and films. Himself and Philip banter about ‘doing some press’.

5.50 Cast member Cormac McDonagh shows up with the news that the banks will need another €24bn. Graham, Bill and Cormac discuss the banking crisis, FAS scandals and Obama’s upcoming visit to Ireland. Apparently theatre isn’t all sequins and making silly noises with your mouth.

6.00 I go back to talk to Isabelle Leclerq. She’s just moved to Ireland from France to take over as the Tivoli’s marketing manager. She believes the public need to be reminded about the Tivoli. She plans to have a lot more going on in the Tivoli in future. “There’s going to be lots more plays this year, and we want to start having gigs in the downstairs again,” she says.

6.15 Luke Hayden, Paul Connaughton and Michael Bates appear onstage and begin to warm up. Cormac is nowhere to be found. They’re only stretching and running through little bits of the play, but their energy and enthusiasm is obvious. Luke tells me he has a good feeling about tonight’s performance. “We’ve had two good runs, and it feels tight.” Paul tells me it will be a nice crowd tonight “they’re coming along for a good night out”.

6.20 Cormac arrives and I watch the actors quickly run through a few of the songs for tonight. Their rendition of Thriller is particularly hilarious. Cormac and Michael disappear backstage. Paul and Luke stay and do warm up exercises. Maybe theatre is a bit about making silly noises after all.

6.30 I go backstage to talk to the actors. I find Cormac McDonagh in his dressing room, which is filled with the sound of disco music. This is his first time performing in the Tivoli but he tells me he has always loved the Liberties area. “The people here are really warm and without pretense. There’s so much real Dublin humour everywhere. I love all the small business on Thomas St and Meath St, they’re really unique. I love working in the area, long may it last.” I don’t want to disturb the actors this close to the show, so I head out to the front again.

6.50 I go outside to size up the crowd arriving to see the play. I’m admiring the leopard skin coat of one of the many women outside the theatre, when suddenly a man in a tuxedo leans over and asks if I’m going to the show tonight. I realise it is Luke Hayden, one of the actors I was just talking to. I tell him I’m going. ‘Doesn’t he remember me?’ I think. Then he says “Well, no throwing bottles at the stage alright?” At the same time I see Paul Connaughton telling an outraged woman that he’ll be keeping his eye on her tonight. I realise this is all part of the show.

7.00 I go into the bar. It’s slowly filling up with excited punters, drinking and buying programmes from Sarah, a work experience student who is working as an usher for the night. The energy in the room is electric.

7.20 People start drifting towards the theatre. I take my drink and settle in for a laugh.

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