Aberdeen Theatres and Halls
Above - A Google StreetView Image of His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen today - Click to Interact
His Majesty's Theatre, in Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen, was designed by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham at a cost of £35,000 and opened on the 3rd of December 1906 with a production of the pantomime 'Little Red Riding Hood.'. (This Theatre should not be confused with the earlier Her Majesty's Theatre on Guild Street, which later became the Tivoli.)
The Theatre is situated above the Union Terrace Gardens and was built from Kemnay White Granite and has an imposing copper covered dome.The auditorium with its Roman Classical style plasterwork was built on four levels with three curved balconies, and proscenium boxes, and could accommodate an impressive 2,300 people when the Theatre opened, but in 2008 this is a more modest 1,400. The stage of the Theatre has a 30' opening, flanked by a pink marble proscenium which has a frieze above by W. H. Buchan depicting robed figures.
Right - His Majestys Theatre, Aberdeen during the run of Can-Can on the 30th of January 1956 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins
In 1982 the Theatre had a £3 million refurbishment and was reopened on the 17th of September by Prince Charles, having been closed for the previous 23 months.
The Theatre was again closed on the 13th March 2004, this time for a redevelopment project costing nearly £8 million and funded by the Aberdeen City Council, The Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund, and Scottish Enterprise Grampian.
The redevelopment included the refurbishment and modernisation of the front of house areas, the building of a new restaurant, coffee shop, and a corporate hospitality suite, a new Green Room and rehearsal room backstage, with improved dressing rooms. The auditorium was also refurbished and the seating re-upholstered.
In 'Memories of Show Business' by Percy Court he writes briefly on his time working at His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen saying:- "We had a few days vacation prior to opening at His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen. A most beautiful theatre, a wonderful staff in a beautiful city. Mrs. Court and myself enjoyed our stroll round this city of granite - of the north.
Left - His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen and the statue of Wallace - From a Postcard.
Outside the portico of the theatre is a huge statue of Wallace - that great Scottish patriot. He must have been a veritable "Goliath" and would have been a great "draw" to any circus. At the base is what he thought of all intruders to Caledonia - he certainly was very candid. He spoke his mind.
We lived in Union Street, over Boots Chemists, it was an easy distance to the theatre. We opened to an absolutely packed house and I never saw, in my long life, such an array of Scottish pageantry before. Parties of dignified families were numerous and filled this beautiful theatre to enjoy our circus offering. The passionate patriotism of their country is exemplified by the display of gorgeous "tartans" - "The exemplary badge of bravery" whilst the little girls added a great charm, wearing velvet capes, which added to the scene.
Mr. Donald, the managing director, was very pleased with the show which included the 5 Australian Aces - a thrilling motor-cycle riding on an inclined plane - with acrobatic stunts. Also Tom Davis Trio - motoring in mid-air - in which all three pass and re-pass each other whilst the track, a grilled tea cup track, is hoisted by cables and a "crab" or "drum' about ten foot high - whilst they continue racing at fifty miles per hour - until the track is lowered.
Right - His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen - From a Postcard.
Our last spectacle was Chipperfield's Lions. The trainer "Dick Chipperfield put his beasts through various tricks to earn the plaudits of the patrons - a Grand Finale! The stage at H.M. Theatre, Aberdeen, is twenty four feet from street level. We had at least twenty-eight horses - these were all stabled outside of the theatre. The lions and other dangerous animals were housed at the theatre. A portion of the stage functioned as a lift and four horses could be accommodated either to travel up or down.
At this period, 1943 - 1944, it was operated by six men - three each side, synchronising. On New Years night, after the performance, an accident occurred - either a man slipped, or was tired - let the handle free. A very big man, of huge dimension, stepped forward to catch the handle - he failed - it decapitated this brave fellow but it broke the impact of the journey to the cellar and the four horses were unhurt. Mr. Donald made provision for his widow and a collection was made among the artists which was in figures...
Left - A Colour Postcard of His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen.
We stayed at this four weeks and only a sprinkling of snow - on two occasions. I shall always have happy memories of Aberdeen. The citizens were enthusiastic with our circus representations. We were feted everywhere - invitations to Scottish gatherings and parties after the show, whilst the directors invited Mrs. Court and myself to the Caledonian Hotel, which we appreciated. Later a really "big K' was given by Mr. Donald - on the last performance before we departed - down south."
The above text in quotes is from 'Memories of Show Business' by Percy Court - You may like to read the rest of Percy's memoirs here.
Now over a hundred years old His Majesty's Theatre is still going strong, and is Aberdeen's Major Theatre for large scale musicals, pantomimes, ballet, opera, and all the major touring productions from London's West End and the provinces.
You may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Formerly - The People's Palace / Currently - Liquid Nightclub
Above - The former Palace Theatre, Aberdeen in a photograph taken in 2011 - Courtesy KR
The Palace Theatre, Aberdeen was designed by John Rust and built as a Variety Theatre by the Livermore Brothers. The Theatre, which opened on Monday the 24th of October 1898, was built on the site of the former People's Palace which was destroyed by fire two years earlier. The auditorium was built on four levels, Stalls and Pit, Grand Circle, Ampitheatre, and Gallery and is stated to have had seating for 1,800 people.
'The new variety theatre in Bridge-place, which has been built by Messrs Livermore Brothers in place of the old People's Palace, destroyed by fire two years ago, was opened on Monday evening. The proprietors have certainly spared no expense, and the result is a building, spacious, handsome, admirably contrived, comfortably arranged, and chastely decorated. Seating accommodation is provided for 1,800 persons, although the generous apportionment of space will permit of a very much larger audience. Alike in construction and equipment, the building is a model theatre. Stage fittings, lighting, heating, and ventilating apparatus are of the most modern type ; everything is of the best. The total cost, exclusive of site, is £15,000.
The fittings and furnishings are of the most lavish description, and the decorations are beautiful yet chaste and tasteful. The accommodation comprises orchestra and reserved stalls, pit stalls, grand circle, private boxes, amphitheatre, and gallery. The main entrance gives access to the stalls, which are on the ground floor. Passing over the mosaic tiled floor of the vestibule, the visitor ascends a short flight of marble steps, 10ft. long, to a spacious promenade that runs round three sides of the building. In front of this promenade, and under the balcony or grand circle, are the pit stalls, and in the area of the hall are the reserved stalls and orchestra stalls. The last-mentioned, of which there are three rows, are immediately in front of the stage.
The handsome lounges are upholstered in peacock plush, and the floor is covered with a heavy velvet - pile carpet. The reserved stalls, of which there are seven rows, occupy the back part of the area. Comfortable tip-up chairs, upholstered in crimson velvet, are provided, and the floor is covered with Brussels carpet. The stalls can accommodate about 200 persons. The seats in the pit stalls, which rise in tiers, are upholstered in figured felt, and are very comfortable.
Upstairs is the grand circle or balcony, running round in the form of a semi-circle. This should prove the most popular part of the house, It is entirely fitted up with red plush tip-up chairs, rising in tiers, and is altogether considered one of the finest balcony floors extant. At the rear is a promenade similar to that on the ground floor. It is 12ft. wide, and is covered with cork carpet. The balcony is seated for between 300 and 400, and the promenade could accommodate from 200 to 300 more. Behind the grand circle are the private boxes, nine in number, which are furnished and decorated in the most lavish style. While they are at the rear of the hall, and are not seen from most parts of the theatre, the boxes command an excellent view of the stage.
On the next floor is the amphitheatre, another large gallery, capable of seating about 500, and behind it, away up under the roof, is a limited range of accommodation for the "gods." Access is gained to the pit stalls by doors from the fireproof passages running along each side of the building, and the balcony and galleries are reached by two broad fireproof staircases, reached from the side doors in the front of the building. In addition, the four doors in Crown-terrace open direct on the balcony and galleries. There is also a private stair from one of the side entrances to the boxes.
In size and equipment the stage is in keeping with the other parts of the building. It is 38ft. wide by 34ft. deep. The scenery, which is entirely new, cost £350, and the large pile plush curtain, in colours of flame and old gold, alone cost 120 guineas. Over all is an asbestos curtain, which would effectually prevent an outbreak of fire in the proscenium from spreading to the auditorium. Ample provision has been made for the accommodation and comfort of the artists. There are six dressing-rooms at each side of the stage, with lavatories in addition, and there are also two staircases leading from the stage to the dressing-rooms and exits.
The ceiling is richly decorated in delicate colours, and the upper walls have panels containing various appropriate figures and scenes designed and executed by local and London artists. The gallery fronts are richly encased with carton pierre enrichments in relief, and the work is treated in tints that harmonise with the more striking embellishments of the walls. The lower walls are hung with heavy Japanese paper, and the numerous columns and pillars are tastefully decorated.
The theatre will be entirely lighted by electricity. The ninety footlights on the stage are each of sixteen candle-power, and there are also two electroliers of twenty lights each suspended from the roof. Numerous smaller lights illumine the stairs and corridors. Altogether, there are in the building 370 lights, with a total candle-power of 27,000. In front of the building in Bridge-place will be fixed six arc lamps of 250 candlepower each, and four similar lamps will adorn the front of Crown-terrace. The building is heated by Perkins's patent hot-water pipes, which extend through every part of the house. Ventilation is also amply provided for by Boyle's patent fresh-air inlets in the side walls, and the foul air is carried off by means of three large exhaust ventilator shafts connected with climax ventilators, 5ft. in diameter, fixed in the roof.
The plaster is fixed on patent steel lathing instead of on wood lathing, and the joisting, beams, and rafters of the galleries are all of steel. Nothing, in short, has been omitted that is likely to conduce to the comfort and safety of visitors, and Messrs Livermore Brothers and their energetic manager, Mr Sheldon, as well as Mr John Rust., jun., the architect, are to be congratulated on the completion of so handsome a building.
On Monday the house was crowded, and a magnificent programme was provided for the evening. Mr Arthur Delaney, a baritone of considerable power, sang a couple of songs; and the Veveys showed themselves to be very clever instrumentalists. Mr Cyrus Dare is one of the best "society performer" ever heard in the north; and an excellent performance was given on the horizontal bar by the Eltons. Jules and Ella Garison were exceedingly funny in a burlesque, entitled A Bit of Nonsense; the Marblesque Troupe in their statuary exhibition show themselves artistically clever; the Silcott quartet sang with spirit and danced very gracefully; a very smart performance was given by the well-known juggling expert Carlotti; and the Danbys, eccentric comedians, were responsible for a large amount of merriment.
Rodger's Electrographe supplies one of the most interesting turns of the evening. The pictures, mostly American, were remarkably good. In the course of the evening the local managing proprietor, Mr Ernest Sheldon, came forward and introduced to the audience his brothers-in-law, Messrs Lechmere and Horace Livermore. Mr Lechmere Livermore, who is the senior partner of the firm, in the course of a short speech, gave an assurance that nothing they could do would be left undone to make the New Palace Theatre all that its patrons could desire.
After referring to the high character of their entertainments, he called on the architect of the theatre, Mr John Rust, city architect, who said that he was commissioned by Messrs Livermore Brothers to make the place as good as it could possibly be done for money, and he hoped the proprietors would have a good dividend out of the house night after night. Mr Sheldon also gave a short address, in the course of which he argued in convincing terms that a high-class, refined variety entertainment, such as was provided at the Palace, was as worthy of the patronage of all classes in the community as the ordinary theatre. The theatre is lighted throughout with electricity.'
Despite all the assurances in the article above the Palace Theatre was gutted by fire in 1929. Subsequently, when it was reconstructed in 1931, the building was constructed as a Cinema instead of a live theatre.
The building still stands today and has been used off and on as a Nightclub for a number of years, currently called Liquid Nightclub. There are some interior images of what remains of the Theatre here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Theatre Royal, Aberdeen, today the Elim Pentecostal Church - Click to Interact.
The Theatre Royal in Marischal Street, Aberdeen was opened in 1795 and was the first permanent Theatre to have been built in Aberdeen. The Theatre cost £3,000 to construct and could seat up to 600 people when it first opened under its original Manager Stephen Kemble. The Theatre was designed by Henry Holland, who had just completed the designs for the third Theatre Royal, Drury Lane which had opened a year earlier in 1794. The Aberdeen Theatre Royal was actually a conversion from a former house built by John Jackson, who had started its construction in 1788 but had become bankrupt before the building could be completed. Stephen Kemble bought the House in 1794 and with the aid of his subscribers, each paying £25, was able to roof over the original building and fit up the inside as a Theatre.
Although Kemble had built the Theatre he didn't stay as its Manager for very long and soon a string of lesser Managers were trying there hand at running the Theatre. In 1799 someone called Bell was Managing it, then in 1802 Hamilton, and next a Mr. Beaumont, who was soon getting into trouble with rent payments and was replaced by Mr. and Mrs. Mudie who had the same problem by 1811. Later Managers were Fraser in 1812, and then Corbet Ryder who ran it until 1842. Then came Langley, Adams, and Barry Sullivan, and later Mrs. Pollock, who had been married to Corbet Ryder until his death, and later married one of her Company, Mr. Pollock. They had more success with the Theatre and ran it together until 1853 when Mr. Pollock died. In 1869 Mr. M'Neil took over, who would later go on to run the Princess' Theatre in Edinburgh. After M'Neil came Edward Price as Manager of the Theatre Royal, both of whom by the way, married the daughters of Mrs. Pollock and her first husband.
Some notable performers on the Theatre Royal's stage were Charles Macready and Charles Kean. And Horatio Lloyd and his son Arthur Lloyd are known to have performed there in 'Facts and Fancies' in 1858 (see poster right). Horatio writes about 'Facts and Fancies' in his autobiography here.
The Theatre was converted into a Church in 1875 by J & W Smith, which is still standing today as the Elim Pentecostal Church (see image above). A commemorative Plaque for the Theatre Royal, Aberdeen, and some information about the Theatre can be seen here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Formerly - Her Majesty's Theatre
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen - Click to Interact
The Tivoli Theatre is situated in Guild Street, Aberdeen and was first built in 1872, originally opening as Her Majesty's Theatre. (This should not be confused with the later His Majesty's Theatre on Rosemount Viaduct, which opened in 1906.) The Theatre was originally designed by the well known Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps and James Matthews. James Matthews also designed the earlier Renaissance Corinthian Town and Country Bank building in Aberdeen, and Aberdeen's Grammar School and Palace Hotel.
On the 5th of June 1897 the Theatre was closed for a few months so that it could be altered to the designs of the now renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham. The Theatre's proprietor at the time was Robert Arthur, and its Manager was John Cavanah. The alterations, which were carried out by Brown & Watt Architects of Aberdeen, included removing the shops which had previously been situated on the ground floor of the building allowing for better accesss to the Pit and Stalls, and carrying out improvements to the Gallery Stairs, and adding new stairs and enlarged corridors for the Dress Circle.
In 1910 the Theatre, now renamed the Tivoli Theatre, was again altered by Frank Matcham, this time more extensively. Matcham's new plans for the Theatre were for converting it into a Music Hall with accommodation for some 1,600 to 1,700 people, he provided more exits for easy escape in case of fire, new large waiting rooms, and improved sight lines to its partially reconstructed auditorium.
Right - A Variety Programme for the Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen in 1942.
The Aberdeen Journal of the 5th of February 1910 reported on the changes saying:- 'Dealing first with the entrances, the present circle entrance and foyer will remain. To the right of the vestibule a wide marble staircase leads through a fine waiting room, handsomely decorated and furnished, with direct access to the stalls. The pit is entered to the left of the vestibule through a similar waiting room, with a staircase leading to the rear of the pit seats. A new fireproof staircase occupies a portion of the old shop property, giving an extra exit from the grand circle, and a new exit from the stalls is also obtained here. The old exit from the pit, which projected into the auditorium and took up a considerable amount of the seating, is done away with and the space floored over and seated, and the result will be a fine square pit, which will be comfortably seated and decorated. Another exit is to be formed at the side of the pit adjoining that from the stalls, in place of the one done away with. The present exits from the gallery and circle will remain, the number of exits then consisting of no fewer than ten, each being separate and distinct from the other, all the doors being made so that they give the full width of passage, when opened, and all being fitted with alarm exit bolts. Additional retiring rooms will be provided from all parts, and a splendid saloon is planned, with easy approaches from the circle and stalls.
External alterations include an improvement of the Guild Street frontage, handsome new polished doors being introduced, and the front made attractive by means of electric lights, etc. A verandah to be erected along the front will protect the public in inclement weather.
Great improvements are to be made in the auditorium, which when completed, will, it is said, compare favourably with that of any theatre of its size in the kingdom. The front of the stage is to be set back, giving additional floor space. The private boxes and sides of the circle and gallery are to be cleared away and reconstructed, improving the sight lines and increasing the seating capacity.
By the removal of the present division of the dress and upper circles and additions to and rearrangement of the seating, there will be provided one grand circle.
A new side staircase will allow free access between the circle and stalls.
The designs show that the decorations will be very artistic, and the furnishings sumptuous and comfortable. Rich draperies, carpets, and velvet tip-up chairs and upholstered seating, and brilliant electric lighting, complete a scheme which, it is claimed, will provide Aberdeen with one of the best high-class variety theatres in the country.'
The above text in quotes (edited) was first published
in the Aberdeen Journal 5th of February 1910.
The firms involved with the above mentioned reconstruction of the Tivoli Theatre in 1910 included D. Macandrew and Company (Carpentry), Marshall Watt and Company (Painters), James Scott and Son (Plasterers), John Worling (Plumbers), Robert Bright (Electrical Engineer), and George Donald & Sons (Decorations). The cost of the work would eventually amount to some £6,000. The Aberdeen Journal reported again on the reconstruction of the Theatre in their 2nd of April 1910 edition saying:- 'The scheme of decoration is characteristic of Louis XV. period, a style which lends itself admirably to the fibrous plaster enrichments. The ceiling of the auditorium, which is circular in shape, is divided with high relief fibrous plaster into four shaped panels, in which are to be painted four frescoes representing the seasons, the colour scheme giving the impression of the radiant glow of an autumn sunset, the electric lighting and sunlight in the centre enhancing the effect. The opening of the proscenium is richly moulded in fibrous plaster having a large lunette panel, containing a painting representing Tragedy and Comedy, with attendant cupids and satyrs. The box facades, pediments, fronts of dress circle, balcony, and gallery are of a most elaborate description in high relief fibrous, richly gilded, and enhanced by the effect of beautiful electric fittings, projecting from the various figured groups of the plaster work. There are to be two life-size figures exquisitely modelled, surmounting the column on each side of the proscenium, representing Art and Music. The draperies of the boxes, etc., are to be of a soft shade of old rose colour, embroidered with gold. The modelling and frescoes are to be executed by Messrs Banbury and Wright. of Gray's School of Art, both well-known in artistic circles. Messrs George Donald and Sons are to be commended on their enterprise in securing such an important contract.'
The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the Aberdeen Journal 2nd of April 1910.
The Tivoli Theatre reopened with a variety production on the afternoon of the 18th of July 1910 under the Management of Walter Gilbert who had previously been running the nearby Palace Theatre for the past 12 years. Performers in the opening production and for the rest of the week included the Harmony Four, the Creo Brothers, the Avolos, Moeney Cash, Ethal Ra-Leslie, Tom Lee, Dix and Dox, and the Sisters Herbert. The Orchestra was under the batton of John C. Shepherd.
The Tivoli went on to have a long life as a variety Theatre but its last live performance came in 1966 when the Theatre was converted for Bingo use, but even this ended in 1997 and the Theatre then remained empty and deteriorating for many years.
However, in July 2009 the Theatre was bought by the businessman Brian Hendry under the name of the 'Tivoli Theatre Company Ltd.', who said that they hoped to spend around £5m over the following years in order to restore the building to its former glory and bring it back to live Theatre use. The following year the Theatre received funding from the 'Green Townscape Heritage Initiative' so that repairs to the roof and masonry, and the windows and doors, could be carried out, this was all achieved by 2012 and at the same time the facade's original featured were reinstated. The Theatre then received additional funding from the 'Historic Scotland Building Repair Grant Scheme' for the restoration of its plasterwork and frescos.
The Tivoli Theatre reopened in a limited capacity on the 25th of October 2013 with the play 'Inferno' by Thomas Bywater. This was followed by a production of the pantomime Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood in December 2013. Despite reopening however, only the stalls area could be used as the upper levels were still being restored.
Despite reopening the Grade A Listed Tivoli Theatre is
still Listed on the Scottish Civic Trusts Buildings at Risk Register
for Scotland but the Tivoli Theatre Company Ltd., aims to eventually
restore the building completely and return it to full time live theatrical
Some wonderful images of the Tivoli Theatre, inside and out, can be seen on the Scottish Cinemas and Theatres Project Website here.
The Tivoli Theatre is today a Grade A Listed Building. You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.
Above - A nostalgic view of many of Aberdeen's cinemas
(You will need to have the Macromedia Flash Player plug-in installed to be able to view this Video)
See also: Cinema City and Beyond - For details and images of Aberdeen's Cinemas and Theatres, past and present.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.