Disused UCD performance space transformed into €2.5m Trapdoor theatre

Old drama society venue fostered top creative talent such as Neil Jordan, Frank McGuinness and Conor McPherson

From the 1970s onwards the old UCD drama society venue fostered some of Ireland’s top creative talent such as Neil Jordan, Frank McGuinness, Conor McPherson and Marina Carr.

After falling into disuse over the past decade or so, it has now been transformed into a €2.5 million state-of-the-art performance theatre with the aim of inspiring a new generation of talent.

University College Dublin hopes the Trapdoor – the name of the new theatre – will see the former venue in the Newman Building take centre stage when it comes to student creativity, production and performance.

“In its near 100-year history, UCD Dramsoc has helped a great many of our students discover their true creative voices and talents, and nurtured them towards stellar careers in the world of the performing arts,” said UCD president Professor Orla Feely, speaking at the official opening of the venue on Tuesday.


“This new state-of-the-art performance space, The Trapdoor, will ensure a continued stream of creative minds are given every opportunity to discover and develop their deep talents and keep UCD nestled at the centre of Ireland’s creative community.”

Left unused since the early 2000s, when Dramsoc relocated to the then new student centre in 2012, the redeveloped performance space is now a 144-seat theatre with professional grade lighting, visual and sound systems.

Its redevelopment is styled on the black box concept of theatre layout, typically an adaptable square room with black walls, floor and ceiling, which caters to a variety of stage and classroom configurations.

The venue was designed by a team including Oran O’Siochain of UCD’s school of architecture, as well as Reddy Architecture and Charcoalblue, a leading theatre and venue design company.

It will serve as the new home of the UCD Creative Futures Academy, under the directorship of Professor PJ Mathews from UCD’s school of English, drama and film. One of the aims of the new venue is to connect industry practitioners with students dedicated to flexing their creative talent.

“This will be a game-changer for the Creative Futures Academy (CFA) at UCD,” said Professor Mathews. “A unique space dedicated to the development of creative talent, and fitted-out to industry standard, will ensure our students have the best chance of success in whatever path they choose.

“The redevelopment of the celebrated former Dramsoc theatre enables us to build on UCD’s international reputation in the creative and performing arts, and to nurture Ireland’s next generation of creative talent.”

The Trapdoor theatre will host a range of new programmes and modules, delivered by academics and experts from the creative industries. Among the artists-in-residence who will teach are Dónal Lunny (traditional music practice), Jenny Jennings (theatre making), and Mark O’Halloran (scriptwriting).

As part of its opening, British film director and screenwriter Steve McQueen is the first official guest at Trapdoor at a workshop with students, led by Dr Nicolas Pillai of UCD.

“Steve is an embodiment of the values to which CFA aspires,” said Dr Pillai. “His work exemplifies the values of experimentation, social responsibility, and ambition that we seek to instil in students.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent