'Show must go on' after suspected arson attack at Lambert Theatre
The iconic Lambert Puppet Theatre has been forced to cancel a number of shows after it was extensively damaged in an alleged arson attack.
The blaze at the Monkstown theatre, famous for producing RTE's Bosco, broke out just before 9pm on Friday night.
A number of puppets were damaged during the blaze and there was significant smoke damage to the upper floor.
The fire appears to have been deliberate and gardai in Dun Laoghaire are investigating the matter.
Theatre director Liam Lambert said that they had to bring the curtain down on a number of shows due to the damage.
"We had planned on doing five shows just before Christmas," he told the Herald.
"The Christmas shows are always popular. We'd hoped to run Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White and more but the damage is just too extensive.
"We have to let a lot of people down," he added.
Mr Lambert praised Deansgrange Fire Brigade for their rapid response to the fire.
"We were lucky the fire brigade arrived so soon. I can't praise them enough," he said.
"They did a great job at containing the fire but it's still a massive setback for us."
Each puppet takes about 60 hours to design and considerate attention to detail is required for the intricate carvings, costumes and jewellery.
Some of the Christmas show puppets have been 15 years in the making.
The oldest puppets in the museum date back to 1850 and Mr Lambert has said that "it will take a number of years to fix the damage that was caused".
The theatre receives no State funding and relies solely on theatre-goers to stay in business.
Mr Lambert said that despite some cancellations, they will press ahead with other performances as the show must go on.
"We have to go on," said Mr. Lambert. "It is an unfortunate situation and we're all understandably very upset.
"We have a small team of four here and we will all work together to get everything back on track."
The Lambert Puppet Theatre was founded in 1972 and is the only dedicated puppet theatre in Ireland and regarded by many as a Dublin institution.
The previous owner, Eugene Lambert, was famous throughout Ireland for his portrayal of the character O'Brien in RTE's children's series Wanderly Wagon.
He died in 2010 at the age of 81, but his son Liam keeps his legacy alive through his work with the theatre.
The theatre is also famous for producing the children's television programme Bosco throughout the late 1970s and 1980s.
The opening ceremony of the theatre was presided over by broadcaster Gay Byrne and comedian Maureen Potter in 1972, and actors such as Frank Kelly, Donal McCann and Bill Golding have all lent their voices to some of the theatre's earlier shows.
The theatre will re-open for business this Saturday and they hope to run with one show, instead of the planned five, this Christmas.
"If all goes well we will begin the Aladdin performance from early November," Mr Lambert said. "There's a lot of work to get done but we'll carry on."