On Easter Monday night 19th April 1897, Dan Lowrey opened the doors of the Cork Palace of Varieties, a sister theatre to the Empire Palace in Dublin, which later became the Olympia. On the opening night the Chairman, Mr. John O’Connell, said it was “without question the prettiest, most commodious and best equipped place of entertainment in Ireland”, and the following morning’s Cork Examiner declared: “The Palace Theatre of Varieties entered its career with every assurance of prosperity.”
Variety programmes were initially the most popular entertainment of the day. Soon, variety acts were followed by pantomime, opera and drama, with touring repertory companies visiting weekly from the UK and further afield. Artists who performed at the Cork Palace of Varieties in this period include Charlie Chaplin, George Formby, Sandow the Strong Man, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and more. Prices ranged from £1 for a box to 6d for a seat in the gallery, with the original entrance from St. Patrick’s Quay.
The First World War, the Spanish Flu and then the Irish Civil War brought the curtain down on variety shows. As the 1920s progressed it became harder for the touring companies to travel around the country and put on shows which led to the decline of the Cork Palace of Varieties.
With the advent of the ‘talkies’, The Palace became a cinema in the 1930s. The Palace Cinema – ‘The House with the Perfect Sound’ served as one of the city’s major cinemas for almost 50 years. The Palace closed as a cinema on 4th June 1988, with the film Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
In 1990, the beautiful listed building became a working theatre again when Everyman Theatre Company took on the challenge of saving it for its original theatrical purpose, re-launching it as the Everyman Palace Theatre. Previous to this, the theatre company had been presenting top-quality plays at a variety of venues around the city since 1962; originally at the Little Theatre in Castle Street and then at the Everyman Playhouse in Father Matthew Street.
The first Everyman production at the new Everyman Palace Theatre took place in March 1990 with Eamon Morrissey’s one-man show The Brother, based on the works of Myles na gCopaleen.
The Everyman Palace Theatre was made possible with the support of the Arts Council, the then Cork Corporation but most importantly from the sacrifices and determination of the founders, organisers and volunteers of the Everyman Theatre Company. A seasonal programme of theatre, comedy, music and light entertainment was soon developed. The Everyman Palace Theatre began to produce more of its own work building strong public engagement.
Highlights during this period include the world premiere of Wrecks by Neil LaBute, which starred Ed Harris, as part of Cork’s 2005 Capital of Culture events. Members of the original founding theatre company continue to sit on The Everyman Board.
The Everyman Palace Theatre rebranded and became known simply as The Everyman, although many people still affectionately call it the Everyman Palace. This year marked the beginning of The Everyman’s reputation for producing stunning opera, with Irish Times award-winning Pagliacci.
In the years that followed, the company focused its mission on audiences and artists in Cork, and on building its profile nationally as a producer of top-quality theatre.
Most recently, The Everyman co-produced the world premiere of Evening Train, a new musical (2019) which received a phenomenal audience reaction. The same year saw the return of Asking For it to The Everyman before touring to the Gaiety (2019) and to Birmingham Repertory Theatre (2020).
Other recent highlights of The Everyman include a national tour of Autumn Royal, a brand-new production of Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West and the world premiere of The Nightingale and the Rose, a new opera by John O’Brien, and Oscar Wilde (2018). In June of 2018, Landmark Productions and The Everyman in association with The Abbey Theatre and Cork Midsummer Festival presented the world premiere of Asking for It by Louise O’Neill, which won the Irish Times Theatre Awards Audience Choice Prize 2018 by a landslide.