Its own art department

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, General, Issue 2 (March/April 2013), Volume 21

An example of James Mahon’s scraperboard artwork from March 1953. The theatre’s stage manager, Charles Wade, personally collected what constitutes the Theatre Royal ephemera collection in the Irish Theatre Archive in the Gilbert Library, Pearse Street, with additional material in the National Library’s Holloway Collection. A collection of hand-produced glass projector slides, which belonged to Norman Metcalfe, is kept in the Irish Film Institute archive, Eustace Street. (Wade Collection, Gilbert Library)

An example of James Mahon’s scraperboard artwork from March 1953. The theatre’s stage manager, Charles Wade, personally collected what constitutes the Theatre Royal ephemera collection in the Irish Theatre Archive in the Gilbert Library, Pearse Street, with additional material in the National Library’s Holloway Collection. A collection of hand-produced glass projector slides, which belonged to Norman Metcalfe, is kept in the Irish Film Institute archive, Eustace Street. (Wade Collection, Gilbert Library)

The theatre had its own art department, which in the 1940s was under the direction of the Limerick painter Fergus O’Ryan. O’Ryan was joined in the early ’40s by a teenage assistant, James Mahon. The theatre’s scene dock and art department had absorbed the old premises of the Freeman’s Journal in Townshend Street. Set design, the sign-writing of posters, the design of programmes and other ephemera, and the hand-preparation of glass projector slides were all carried out in the art department for the Royal and other cinemas that belonged to the Rank Organisation. At the age of fourteen, James Mahon’s younger brother Thomas, an apprentice in the department, was assigned the task of ‘doctoring’ film posters featuring leading female stars, raising necklines and lowering hemlines with a bottle of printer’s ink and a brush. Both brothers went on to have successful careers as designers elsewhere—James in the ESB, and Thomas designing the Apple Records label for the Beatles.

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