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Smock Alley plea to raise curtain

The director of a celebrated 17th-century theatre made an urgent plea today for funding to help raise the curtain on the venue again.

Dublin's Smock Alley Theatre, once a thriving location with strong working links with Covent Garden, is undergoing a multi-million euro makeover to restore it to its former glory.

But project co-ordinators have warned without a rapid injection of cash, the extensive renovation work will be delayed.

"We're about four million short of what we need. We've raised about four and we need another four to bring this project home," Smock Alley director Patrick Sutton said.

"It's about oiling the wheels with money so we can get the project running and we need to do that now -- not in six months, not in eight months, not in a year's time."

Curlers

In August a three-week excavation project unearthed the theatre's 1662 foundations along with a number of key artefacts, including mosaic flooring, discarded oyster shells and wig curlers. Staff hope some of the historical items will go on display in the new venue, which is set to feature a 250-seater theatre and a smaller studio space.

The Smock Alley Theatre Foundation has also been established in the United States to give donors a tax break on any donations they wish to make.

"One euro is welcome and 100 euros are welcome and we're launching a website, smockalleytheatre.com where people can donate online," Mr Sutton said. "It's about asking people to engage in the history of this but also in the future."

In its heyday renowned actors like David Garrick and Spranger Barry took to the Smock Alley stage, with Restoration plays and Shakespearean tragedies pulling in the crowds. As the theatre's popularity waned it was forced to close and take on new guises as a Catholic church and more recently an adventure centre.

Resonance

"Call them spirits, call them ghosts, call them what you will but the atmosphere is alive in here with the resonance of Garrick and Peg Woffington and what they did," Mr Sutton said.

hnews@herald.ie


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