A rethinking of the Theatre Royal is aiming to put Waterford firmly back on the touring map for national musicians and emerging local acts alike.
It’s thanks to a conversion of the venue’s main auditorium into an intimate venue, by using the full space of the stage for seating instead of the regular seating.
The move is geared towards growing acts on the wider Irish scenes. There’s an ambition that Backstage at the Royal can also help local acts gain a footing and continue to develop on the home scene.
It’s been put forward by Theatre Royal technical director Dermot Quinn who views it as “giving an underground club atmosphere as opposed to a theatre”, with seating trimmed down to 90 instead of 432.
He told The Munster Express: “We’re very conscious that there was nowhere for emerging local bands who have original music to play and touring artists of a certain style, like acoustic, folk and rock.
“There are plenty of pubs but since the Forum closed there’s been a hole in having a space for bands to perform in Waterford. This gives them a space to play to a captive audience rather than to a pub gig where people might be there for any number of reasons.”
It’s all kicking off this Saturday March 26th with Mayo-born musician Niall McCabe coming to town, supported by singer Colin Andrew and local group Birds of Burden.
“It’s about encouraging a scene in Waterford,” said promoter Anthony O’Dywer, a Carrick-on-Suir native who has worked in the scene with the likes of Roundwood Kitchenstaff and The Cosmic Fund Band. He divides time between his home in Waterford city and Belfast where he works as a law lecturer at Queen’s University, has taken to spreading the word on the development at the Royale.
“I’ve heard from musicians who had intended on skipping Waterford and playing the likes of Clonakilty, but the idea here is that Backstage at the Royal means Waterford won’t be skipped by bands and it can instead put Waterford back on the touring map for acts. It makes it a much more attractive place to play than before.”
It will help support local artists as a “stepping stone” venue, added Dermot.
A look at the redesigned Theatre Royal, which is repurposing the stage as the entire venue for the gigs.
Dermot, from Poleberry, had been artistic director of Spraoi for nigh on 20 years before taking up the role of technical director at the Theatre Royal in recent years. He was no stranger to the venue prior either, having grown up around the venue when it was a society based theatre, where his father Larry worked as stage manager.
“I’ve worn a few hats and have a band myself and I can tell you, there’s a wealth of talent out there in Waterford and we’re getting more and more interest from acts from elsewhere who are starting to hear about the venue and who feel that it’s a good size for them. Our auditorium can hold 432 so not every act will fill that size.”