Smock Alley was the first Theatre Royal built in Dublin. John Ogilby opened it in 1662 as part of the Restoration of the British monarchy and King Charles II in 1660, along with the London’s Drury Lane (1662) and the Lincoln’s Inn Fields (1661). It was the first custom-built theatre in the city and still remains in substantially the same form, making it one of the most important sites in European theatre history.
Smock Alley was the first theatre outside London to receive the title of Theatre Royal, but because it had been built on land reclaimed from the Liffey, the building was unstable and the gallery collapsed twice; it was rebuilt in 1735.
In the mid-1740s, Thomas Sheridan took on the role of manager of Smock Alley and made many improvements to it. While it was in operation as a theatre, it gave the world the plays of George Farquhar, Oliver Goldsmith, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and the brilliant performances of Peg Woffington, Thomas Sheridan, Spranger Barry, and Charles Macklin. It was on this stage that David Garrick, the greatest actor of the 18th century, first played Hamlet.
The theatre closed in 1787. The building was then used as a whiskey store until Father Michael Blake bought it to set a church. When the bell tolled in 1811, 18 years before the Catholic Emancipation, the first Catholic bell to ring in Dublin in nearly 300 years was heard. The facade boasts ornate stained glass windows and the original ceiling plasterwork remain in the Smock Alley as a witness of this time.
After a six-year renovation, Smock Alley Theatre reopened its doors as Dublin’s oldest newest theatre in May 2012. With three gorgeous venues, Smock Alley is the perfect place to spend a cultural evening out.