History

Theatre Royal - Where History & Entertainment meet

The Theatre Royal is Ireland’s oldest continually operating theatre. Lovingly restored, this Victorian gem hidden within a beautiful Georgian building, is a jewel in the midst of Waterford’s Viking Triangle. The building opened in 1785 and included a playhouse and Assembly Rooms which were designed by famous Waterford architect John Roberts. The first performance on the opening evening was Shakespeare’s popular five-act comedy As You Like It. The Ball Room, which we today call The Large Room, was completed later in 1788.

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The building was upgraded to the auditorium that we see today in 1876 when the doors of the new Theatre Royal were first opened. At that time it was stated that “we have sufficient guarantee that nothing of an objectionable character will ever be presented within its walls”! And that has remained until today! In those early days Oscar Wilde lectured on America here and may even have recounted that famous anecdote that when asked at American customs if he had anything to declare his response was “only my genius”.

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In the 1900s it was used as a musical theatre, and a cinema, playing host to King Edward VII, The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Harold Pinter and a host of local theatre groups.

In the 1950s it was briefly suggested that the performance area be closed and that the theatre be converted into council offices. However local dramatic groups and the general public revolted at the thought and the theatre reopened in 1958. Two years later it hosted the first ever “Waterford Festival of Light opera” which ran for over 50 years.

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In recent years the theatre has undergone extensive renovations under the direction of Artistic Director Ben Barnes. The new extension includes the addition of state of the art dressing rooms and the restoration of the 18th century wall at the rear of the stage.

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