The Gaiety Theatre, Peter Street, Manchester
Formerly - The Comedy Theatre
About the Theatre - John Pitt Hardacre, one time Lessee of the Comedy Theatre - John Pit Hardacre's Production of Little Bo Peep at the Comedy Theatre - Theatre Tokens for Charlie Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester in 1926
Above - An early 1900s postcard showing the Comedy Theatre, Manchester - Later the Gaiety, during a production of the pantomime 'Cinderella' - Courtesy Maurice Friedman, British Music hall Society.
The Gaiety Theatre, in Peter Street, Manchester was built by Alfred Darbyshire for United Theatres Co Ltd with John Hart as the licensee, and originally opened as the Comedy Theatre in 1884, with a capacity of 2,500. The stage was 27' deep by 31' 6" wide, with a proscenium height of 25' and a further 24' 6" to the grid. The Theatre was fitted with an orchestra pit.
Right - A Watercolour showing the Manchester Gaiety Theatre's Auditorium in 1912 - By George Richmond, June 2016. The painting has been created from a photograph in the book 'Red Plush and Gilt' by Joyce Knowlson, and the colour scheme is from articles in contemporary archive newspaper reports.
For many years the Comedy Theatre was run by John Pitt Hardacre who began his theatrical career at the Queen's Theatre, Manchester in 1876 under the stage name of Stanley Ward. He eventually became Lessee of the Queen's and Comedy Theatres, Manchester, the Prince's Theatre, Blackburn, the Theatre Royal, Darwen, and joint Lessee of the Theatre Royal, Oldham. He was also a long time friend of T. C. King, Arthur Lloyd's father in law. There is more on John Pitt Hardacre below.
Right - The auditorium of the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester - Courtesy The Theatres Trust.
The Comedy Theatre was later renamed the Gaiety Theatre and would be bought by Miss A. E. F. Horniman in the early part of 1908 for £25,000. Horniman took possession of the Theatre on the 8th of April that year and ran it for the Spring season but she would later have the Theatre reconstructed by the renowned Theatre architect Frank Matcham. The Theatre closed in June 1908 for the three month reconstruction and reopened as the Gaiety Theatre on Monday the 7th of September 1908 with a production of a new Comedy by Charles McEroy called 'When the Devil was Ill'.
Left - Detail of the stage right side of the auditorium and stage of the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester - Courtesy The Theatres Trust.
In his book 'Miss Horniman, and the Gaiety Theatre Manchester Radcliffe' published in 1952, R Pogson states that:- 'The whole of the interior had been remodelled to provide every part of the house with good seeing and hearing and to make every seat comfortable. The upper circle and gallery, rebuilt on the cantilever principle, were now free of supporting materials; in the pit all that remained were steel columns three inches in diameter, causing the least possible obstruction to the view.
Right - Detail of the auditorium ceiling of the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester - Courtesy The Theatres Trust.
By setting the ground floor seats in the "well" method it had been possible to lower the upper circle and gallery and to reduce the slope. There was less projection of the upper circle over the pit and of the gallery over the upper circle. Plush tip up seats were provided everywhere save in the gallery, but even there the seats were flush and divided by rails so that all could be reserved.
Left - The auditorium of the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester - Courtesy The Theatres Trust.
The decorative scheme was even more surprising. Gilt had been eliminated, a thing unheard of in theatre decoration at that time, and the prevailing tones were white and red. The stage had been relaid but not altered in size, and was framed by mottled marble, whilst the wall space above it had representations in white of old fashioned ships; the Gaiety had of course, adopted a ship as its emblem. Behind the stage, both offices and dressing rooms had been rebuilt and improved and fronted with fireproof walls.'
The above text in quotes was first published in R. Pogson's 'Miss Horniman; the Gaiety Theatre,' 1952. - Courtesy The Theatres Trust.
Above - The Gaiety Theatre, Manchester during the run of 'Look Back In Anger.' - Courtesy The Theatres Trust.
Above - The auditorium and stage of the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester - Courtesy The Theatres Trust.
The Gaiety Theatre Opened as the Comedy Theatre in 1884. In 1920 it was taken over by Samuel Fitton & Associates. By 1945 it was being managed by H. Buxton. The Theatre was demolished in 1959.
Above - A Theatre Token / Coin for Charlie Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester commencing 11th January 1926 for 4 weeks. - Courtesy Allan Judd - The reverse of one coin states: 'These discs to be obtained only from the Electric Printing Co. Cinema Printers + Barker St. Strangeways, Manchester.
Above - Another copy of the Coins for Charlie Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester commencing 11th January 1926 for 4 weeks. - Courtesy Chris Walker.
If you know any more about this Theatre or have programmes or images you are willing to share please Contact Me.
For many years the Comedy Theatre, Manchester, was run by John Pitt Hardacre who began his theatrical career at the Queen's Theatre, Manchester in 1876 under the stage name of Stanley Ward. He eventually became Lessee of the Queen's and Comedy Theatres, Manchester, the Prince's Theatre, Blackburn, the Theatre Royal, Darwen, and joint Lessee of the Theatre Royal, Oldham. He was also a long time friend of T. C. King, Arthur Lloyd's father in law.
Mr J. Pitt Hardacre had a testimonial benefit last Saturday and Sunday at the Comedy Theatre, Manchester, of which he is temporary lessee. On Saturday afternoon the performance commenced with the trial scene from Aunt Jack by Mr and Mrs Edgar and company; and other items included in the entertainment were a character recital by Mr J. W. Summers, the third act of Othello by Mr. T. C. King, Miss Bessie King, Mr Louis Calvert, and Mr Lindo Courtenay; and The Spitaltields Weaver by Mr and Mrs Pitt Hardacre and company. On Sunday evening a sacred concert was given in the same theatre, at which the joint bands of the Royal, Prince's, St. James's, and Comedy Theatres performed several overtures. Solos were sung by Mrs Hardacre, Miss St. Bryde, Miss Theresa Gilbert, Mr Kendal Thompson, and Mr T. Black. Readings were also given by Mr E. T. White and Mr Summers. At the close of the concert Mr Hardacre made a few remarks, in which he thanked all who had assisted at that concert, and wished it were possible to have similar concerts in a big city like Manchester every Sunday. He trusted the position he had made would never be forfeited through any fault of his own, and he would always do what he could to be remembered by them, and be as popular with them as he now seemed, to be. - The ERA, 20th September 1890.
PLAYERS OF THE PERIOD
MR J. PITT HARDACRE is one of the best-known figures in the English dramatic world, and began his theatrical career twenty-three years ago at the Queen's Theatre, Manchester, under the stage name of Stanley Ward. Some twelve years ago he reverted to his own name, which he is now known by.
After a long period of struggles, gaining nothing but experience, he purchased the drama Current Cash, by C. A. Clark. This was the turning point of his career. Shortly afterwards he toured Right's Right, by the same author, and then sent out a company of East Lynne, with Miss Louise Moodie in the principal part. This has been uninterruptedly on the road ever since. He has also toured The Ticket-of-Leave Man, with Henry Neville in his original part, Lady Windermere's Fan, The Sultan of Mocha, F. A. Scudamore's Rags and Bones, the title of which he changed to True Metal, Sim's and Pettitt's Silver Falls, The Shaughraun, Robert Emmett, Old London, &c.
At one time he was the lessee and owner of the Queen's and Comedy Theatres, Manchester; Prince's Theatre, Blackburn; Theatre Royal, Darwin; and joint lessee with the late Mr Lindo Courtenay, of the Theatre Royal, Oldham. He is a good actor, particularly in robust parts, his biggest success being as John Brierley, in Nicholas Nickleby. He was also very fine as John Saxton, the Yorkshireman,, in Wilson Barrett's play of Nowadays. He has also essayed the higher tragedy parts of Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet.
In his early days he had a good Shakespearian rounding with Charles Dillon, and afterwards with T. C. King, whom he toured for eleven months. Mr Hardacre is now leading a comparatively easy life, managing only the Comedy Theatre, Manchester, and touring his East Lynne company. It must not be omitted to add that at onetime England seemed too small for him, when for three years he ran the Empire Theatre, Brussels, first as managing-director for a company and afterwards on his own account.
As an actor he makes very few appearances, one of which will take place on Monday next at the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham, and the following week at Greenwich, in which two theatres he plays the part of Archibald Carlyle, in Mr Wilson Barrett's version of East Lynne. This will be his first appearance in London since he played the same part at the old Olympic eleven years ago, when he had a most prosperous season, the success of the piece on that occasion being phenomenal. He has since run the present Olympic for a short season with the same piece with hardly less successful business. Mr Hardacre also excels as a pantomime producer. During his ten years' season at the Comedy, Manchester, he has had some of the most phenomenal runs on record, one pantomime reaching the enormous number of 165 performances, another 163, and a third 150, and during which time many of the now most prominent pantomime artists on the stage have been introduced to the British public through his instinctive knowledge.
In December 1899 John Pitt Hardacre put on the pantomime 'Little Bo Peep' at the Comedy Theatre, Manchester. The show was very successful and ran for 168 performances, only closing on March 31st 1900. Members of the company were given gifts to celebrate the production and one of these gifts, a silver card case dedicated to Dolly Stormont, is shown below. Details of the production can be read below this.
The 168th and last performance of "Be-Peep,"
the Comedy Theatre pantomime, took place on Saturday
evening. There was, as is usual on such occasions, a crowded house.
A large part of the audience was composed of boisterous youths, principally
the students of "arts and sciences," and a Manchester public
hardly requires to be informed that from the rise to the fall of the
curtain they made themselves rather prominent. In commemoration of a
record success, Mr. Pitt Hardacre (who had to make
a speech to the audience) presented each member of the company with
a silver souvenir. The ladies received card cases, and the gentlemen
cigarette cases. - The Manchester Times, Friday, 5 Apr 1900.
Another production that Dolly Stormont was involved in under John Pitt Hardacre's management of the Comedy Theatre, Manchester, was the musical farce, 'Black and White' a review of which from October 1899 can be read below:
COMEDY THEATRE. - Proprietor, Mr J. Pitt Hard-acre; Business-Manager, Mr Edmund V. Campbell; Acting-Manager, Mr Wm. Bernard Astin - The attraction here this week is the musical farce Black and White, which is doing good business. The laughable complications are disentangled in a pleasing fashion by Mr Alexander Loftus's company. In the part of the impecunious Lord Rook Mr Arthur Ring is seen to advantage; and Mr Wallace Widdicombe acts well as Christopher. Mr Reginald Rutter is very amusing as Hedgkett, the money-lender; Mr Charles Danvers as Grunsell makes a typical and effective lawyer; Sir Charles has an able expenent [sic] in Mr C. Brooke Wilson; Miss Minna Louis is capital as Lady Lydia; Miss Scott Watson is captivating as Therese; Miss Dolly Stormont does well as Deenalooloo, and Miss Maud Marlow as Verona interprets her part most satisfactorily. The remaining characters have capable representatives. Before the Down, a curtain-raiser, is made the most of by Mr Wallace Widdecombe, Miss Jummy Butler, Mr Charles Danvers, and Miss Scott Watson. - The ERA, 14th October 1899.
Dolly Stormont was a 20 year old Irish actress who, along with another young actor, Leslie Brooke, had gone to Manchester from Dublin, Ireland, to find her place in English Theatre. Although she is not mentioned in the main cast, in the newspaper cuttings above, she was given a Card Holder as were all the ladies in the Bo Peep Pantomime. If you have a programme for this production that you are willing to share on the site please Contact Me.
Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.