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Theatres in Perth, Scotland

Introduction - The Perth Theatre - The Perth Concert Hall - The City Hall - The Theatre Royal - The City Theatre - The New Public Hall and Opera House - The Alhambra Theatre - The Pavilion Theatre - The Playhouse Theatre

A Plan of Perth in the 1850s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Plan of Perth in the 1850s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Fair City of Perth, former capital of Scotland until 1492, county town and royal burgh standing on the banks of the River Tay, and sometimes flooded by it, expanded greatly in the 19th century thanks to railways, whisky distilling and bottling, dyeworks and insurance underwriting business. It continues to have its Perth Theatre, sited in High Street, and opened in 1900, but now greatly enlarged in 2017, and its main entrance changing to the rear off Mill Street.

Perth High Street in the 1920s showing a Perth Theatre sign to right of the horse drawn cart - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - Perth High Street in the 1920s showing a Perth Theatre sign to right of the horse drawn cart - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In the later decades of the 18th century theatre was staged in the Old Guild Hall by visiting companies from the Theatres-Royal of Edinburgh and Glasgow, among others, until 1786 when the Glovers' Hall opened, whose adverts announced that "The Theatre will be lighted with Wax". Here Cinderella was first staged in the town in 1809. A collapse that year of the hall's balcony ended productions there and moved to the town's Old Grammar School in St Anne's Lane, South Street. In 1810 with help from the town council it was fitted up as The Theatre. Complete with balcony and boxes it housed plays and variety shows. Its opening top billing in May 1810 for four nights was that of actress Julia Glover from Covent Garden Theatre – mother of Edmund Glover who would develop the high standards of Glasgow's Theatre Royal – and the last of the lessees of moment of the academy venue were Corbet Ryder and his wife Jessie Fraser.

The above article on Perth and its Theatres was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

The Perth Theatre, 185 High Street and Mill Street, Perth

Formerly - The City of Perth Theatre & Opera House / The Perth Repertory Theatre

A Perspective showing the proposed new Mill Street entrance to the Perth Theatre when it opens in 2017 - Courtesy Richard Murphy architects.

Above - A Perspective showing the proposed new Mill Street entrance to the Perth Theatre when it opens in 2017 - Courtesy Richard Murphy architects.

The High Street Entrance and Canopy of the Perth Theatre in the 1970s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Today's Perth Theatre, whose first trading name was the City of Perth Theatre & Opera House, opened to the public on 6th September 1900. Its main entrance at 185 High Street is fronted by red sand-stoned tenements, with the rear of the building towards Mill Street. In 2015 the Theatre went dark to permit major extensions and additions, and was scheduled to open again in December 2017.

Right - The High Street Entrance and Canopy of the Perth Theatre in the 1970s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

After thoughts about a new Theatre over the previous year or two, it was 1898 when the Perth Theatre & Opera Co Ltd, chaired by the Earl of Mansfield, was formed to build a new theatre in High Street. Its directors included William Whitelaw MP whose son would become Deputy Prime Minister.

J. H. Savile, founder and owner of the Perth Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The then provisional lessee and active promoter of the Prospectus was John Henry Savile of Paisley's Theatre. However, not all shares were taken up and the company required a mortgage loan to complete it. In 1909 the loan company sought the final repayment of their money and faced with this the directors agreed to accept an offer from the lessee and manager J. H. Savile - himself a large shareholder - to buy the Theatre outright, which he did for £3,500 which was half of its original cost.

Left - J. H. Savile, founder and owner of the Perth Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Prospectus in 1899 described the intended theatre:- "The Theatre itself will measure 120 feet in length from north to south, and 60 feet from east to west. The principal entrance will be from High Street, leading into a corridor covered with an ornamental iron and glass roof, which by two short flights steps terminates in a vestibule on the level of the box floor. From the vestibule entrances open into the higher-priced parts of the Theatre, namely - the private boxes, dress circle, upper circle, and orchestral and pit stalls. The pit is entered from Cutlog Vennel, while the gallery is entered from the private entrance leading off Mill Street. The sitting accommodation upon the pit floor includes two private boxes, each capable of holding four; 69 orchestral stalls in four rows, and about 42 pit stalls in two rows immediately behind the orchestral stalls, while the pit itself is seated for 338 persons in thirteen rows. On the dress circle level there will be two other private boxes; the dress circle itself will be seated for 78 persons. The upper circle, situated immediately behind, but having a separate entrance from a lobby above the dress circle, will have five rows of seats, accommodating about 105 persons. The gallery will seat about 300 persons. The Theatre, which will be seated and upholstered in the most approved and comfortable manner, will seat about 950, and when crowded hold about 1390...

A view from Stage of the Perth Theatre Auditorium in 1953 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team.

Above - A view from Stage of the Perth Theatre Auditorium in 1953 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team.

...The proscenium will be 26 feet wide; the stage from the footlights to the back wall will measure 34 feet, and will have a width of 56 feet. The lighting of the Theatre will be by gas, but provision will be made whereby electric light may be introduced as soon as a supply of the current can be obtained.

Mr J. H. Savile, proprietor and manager of the Paisley Theatre, has agreed to take lease of the Theatre for a period of fourteen years. Mr Savile, who has very high commendations from Mr Edward Compton of the Compton Comedy Company, occupies an influential position in the theatrical profession, and has been eminently successful with his Paisley Theatre. In May last he was asked to undertake the general management of Messrs Howard & Wyndham's, Limited, five Theatres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Newcastle, and it was only because the Directors made it a sine qua non that Savile should give up his Paisley Theatre in which he is deeply interested that the negotiations fell through. He will work the Perth Theatre in conjunction with his Paisley one, and, as he has a wide and high-class connection in the profession, the public of Perth may rely upon being visited by the best touring Companies."

The Veranda and Main Entrance of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

Above - The Veranda and Main Entrance of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

The building was designed by Dundee's City Architect William Alexander and was similar in construction to his design of Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee but on a smaller scale. Replete with narrow cast-iron columns it is a two-tiered auditorium with a horse-shoe plan circle and balcony which link to boxes and proscenium; and a bowed balcony front with consoled features and a straight upper balcony front with elegant swag detail. The rococo plaster mouldings were in cream and red and the boxes draped in deep red. The ceiling resembled the sky bordered with flowers with the names of musical masters embossed in gold leaf. For decades a cast-iron glazed canopy stretched the full length of the street frontage.

An original cross section plan of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

Above - An original cross section plan of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

An original Pit plan of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

Above - An original Pit plan of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

An original Dress Circle plan of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

Above - An original Dress Circle plan of the Perth Theatre, drawn by William Alexander in 1898 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team and Perth & Kinross Council Libraries.

At its opening in 1900 The Era added:- "The interior is exceedingly handsome. The tip-up chairs in the dress circle and stalls are upholstered in crimson plush, and the fronts of the two balconies and boxes, of which there are three on each side of the stage, are richly ornamented with cream and gilt plastic work on a pale blue ground. The dressing-rooms are on a level with the stage, and are comfortable and well ventilated. The comfort of the public has also been amply provided for in the way of cloak rooms, lavatories, and refreshment bars, there being four of the latter." - The Era, 1900.

From 1897 there had been two competing plans for a new theatre, one being for the High Street which received Savile's support. In February 1898 his Cinderella pantomime was playing at the City Hall when in an interview he said:- " I shall work the new theatre along with my Paisley house, giving each of the towns three nights of good companies. In time I might think of combining Inverness with Perth. The difficulty in the way of going to the capital of the Highlands with theatrical fare has always been its isolation - the lengthy railway journey to be undertaken. An arrangement might be arrived at for companies going from Dundee for Perth, then on to Inverness, and afterwards round to Aberdeen, dividing a week between Perth and Inverness. Such a scheme might put past part of the difficulty arising out of the expense of the railway journeys."

The first performance at the new Theatre was Wallace's opera Maritana by J. W. Turner's Opera Company. Tickets were priced from 2/6 to 6d. The theatre was packed that night with 1,300 in the audience. In his speech from the stage Savile said:- "The days of City Hall performances were past. If they wanted a theatre it must be run with consecutive performances."

Perth Theatre across the years has staged plays, including repertory seasons, pantomime, opera including the Moody Manners Company and the Carl Rosa Company, musicals, variety including Harry Tate, Harry Lauder, Will Fyffe and Maud Allan, and concert parties in the summer seasons, including ballerina Lydia Kyasht in Piccadilly Cabaret in 1931, and Tommy Lorne, Tommy Morgan and Jack Radcliffe in their comedy revues. It was also used for public meetings. Although J. H. Savile was particularly proud of his own pantomimes, written by Fred Locke, he was so busy that other companies became regulars - pantomimes by Harry McKelvie of the Royal Princess's Theatre, Glasgow to be followed, after 1918, by productions from Fred Collins of the Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow. Under successors to the Saviles the Theatre would become a national home for repertory. After WWII, ballet increased, to be followed in the 1970s by the newly formed Scottish Opera, and by Scottish Ballet.

In April 1915 Savile started his own Savile Repertory Company (usually referred to as the Paisley Repertory Company) based in the Paisley Theatre. Annually the Repertory company would be 43 weeks at Paisley (producing 40 plays) 15 weeks at Perth and 2 weeks in England or Ireland.

Miss Winifred Savile of the Perth Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In 1918 he added his Perth Repertory Company, which included his actress daughter Winifred Savile. The following year J. H. Savile announced his wish to retire, and advertised both Theatres for sale as going concerns. The Paisley Theatre was sold to E. H. Bostock and became part of the Bostock Circuit. Perth continued in Savile family ownership and direction until 1935. Winifred Savile was also a producer for the Perth Amateur Players. Over and above the employees of visiting companies, the Theatre employed an average of 45 people and with a big show up to 60 or 70.

Right - Miss Winifred Savile of the Perth Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Responding to competition from cinemas the gallery seating was changed to tip-up seats in 1922 when the whole Theatre was refurbished, and decorated in light shades - in white and gold; plus a new system of lighting from the roof. Accommodation was now for 1,100 in total. On 28 April 1924 fire destroyed the upper sections of the Theatre - the Dress Circle and Upper Circle – but Savile, in ill health as he was, put in hand plans to restore it. Unfortunately he succumbed to a heart attack in July. Ownership passed to his widow, who with her daughter now ran the Theatre for the next 10 years. The Theatre was restored and reopened in September 1924, with little change to the original styling except that the rococo ceiling was replaced as a plain saucer dome.

A Perth Theatre Programme of Productions for the winter of 1922/23 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project Team.

Above - A Perth Theatre Programme of Productions for the winter of 1922/23 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project Team.

While still running the business successfully, Mrs Savile put the Theatre up for sale in February 1934. Over the previous three years she had refused numerous offers to buy it for conversion to a cinema, and held out for its continuation as a live theatre. Now it was for sale for any purpose, without restriction, because of the poor health at the time of her daughter. More about J. H Savile and the Savile family can be found here.

The arrival in the small city in December 1933 of the Art-Deco, super-sized Playhouse in Murray Street was changing everything. It accommodated 1,700 comfortably in the lap of luxury and presented films on modern screen, complete with stage facilities and dressing rooms for live shows. Even James Currie, Perth's most prominent entertainer, who had built the Alhambra Theatre and now owned the variety Pavilion Theatre on the North Inch had to make major changes.

While still in full operation, Perth Theatre and all its contents were advertised in August 1934 to be sold as a going concern, by auction in the dress circle in September. But the national auctioneers received no bids. It was finally sold by private bargain in May 1935 with the new owner agreeing to retain the Theatre staff and to redecorate the building, and provide tip-up seating throughout; re-opening on 23rd September.

Funds to buy the theatre came from Ernest Dence, father of Marjorie Dence. The new owner formed Perth Repertory Theatre Ltd with its directors Marjorie Dence and David Steuart, who each contributed to the refurbishment.

MARJORIE DENCE

A Photograph of Marjorie Dence, owner and co-founder of the Perth Repertory Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Marjorie Dence was born in 1901 and brought up in London where on attending London University she started her acting career by joining the University Dramatic Society. There she met David Steuart also cutting his acting teeth, but after completing their studies they left and joined different acting companies until the 1930s when they were both in one of the Lena Ashwell acting companies.

Right - A Photograph of Marjorie Dence, owner and co-founder of the Perth Repertory Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

A Plaque in the Perth Theatre commemorating Marjorie Dence - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.One night in 1934 after appearing in Ilford's Town Hall they waited for the last train back to London. Wondering aloud about owning a Theatre David pointed to the railway map on the station platform and pointed to Perth as the place that it should be at – appealing also to his Scottish roots. A few days later they read the advert of Perth Theatre being available for purchase. Serendipity and negotiation did the rest. Her father was a marine engineer who on retiral became a councillor and then Mayor of Greenwich. He represented that borough on London County Council and became London's chairman in 1933-34 during which he laid the foundation stone for new buildings for its University.

Left - A Plaque in the Perth Theatre commemorating Marjorie Dence - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.

From 1935 she broke new ground as the first woman in Scotland to form a professional-paid repertory company - which also owned its own Theatre. (Molly Urquhart co-founded the Glasgow Curtain theatre company two years earlier as an amateur-unpaid repertory company.) In its early years Marjorie Dence was an actress in many of the plays until she focussed solely on her busy task of business management and the company's involvement in civic life. She was awarded the MBE for her services to the Festival of Britain held throughout 1951.

DAVID STEUART

A Photograph of David Steuart, co-founder of the Perth Repertory Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Born in 1905, David Spens Steuart was educated at London University and became co-founder and artistic director of Perth Repertory Theatre.

As an actor he appeared frequently in its plays and in the 1950s onwards was also heard in plays on the wireless before adding television acting to his bow. The kilted David was an energetic artistic director with many irons in the fire. His last appearance on the Perth stage was in 1984, a year before he was made a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Right - A Photograph of David Steuart, co-founder of the Perth Repertory Theatre - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

His father, zoologist Douglas Spens Steuart, was a mining engineer greatly involved in the minefields of Cornwall and Devon, and a consulting engineer in London, with interests in overseas deposits. He was one of the prominent Scots who supported Ernest Shackleton in his British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09. He offered Shackleton a share of royalties if new mineral deposits were found there. (The leading supporter was industrialist William Beardmore who more pragmatically guaranteed the costs of the expedition.)

In 1941 Steuart retired to Perth where he penned poetry and wrote of his years when he befriended wild animals in zoos, especially wolves, becoming known as the Wolf Man.

A Programme Cover for the First Anniversary of the Perth Theatre Company, 1935 - 1936 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.In 1935 the Perth Theatre's new owner was Ernest Dence, with Marjorie Dence becoming sole proprietor two years later, on her father's death. In the first year 1935-36, 51 plays were produced. In the same year they started a Perth Theatre Club with membership offering discounts on seats. The company also started to stage productions in Dundee, and nearby towns north of it, and in St Andrews. 1938 saw the company's first command performance at Balmoral Castle, where they staged 'The Fourth Wall' by A. A. Milne in the presence of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Dence and Steuart pioneered the first Scottish Theatre Festival in 1939. They received the support of many playwrights, notably James Bridie who advocated that Perth Theatre should become a Municipal Theatre. Four years later he started Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre and repertory, which in substance became a municipal Theatre.

Right - A Programme Cover for the First Anniversary of the Perth Theatre Company, 1935 - 1936 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.

Paying for everything would be challenging, especially in its first decade. Particularly in the war years it survived by housing and feeding the company within the Theatre building, the ladies sleeping in dressing rooms, and the men in a dormitory in the gallery bar. No salaries were paid or expected and every member, from manager to stage hand, took an equal share of the box office receipts.

The first outside financial help came during the war, in 1941, from the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, but it was only a small grant and was made on condition that the company did at least six weeks' touring during the year. That was the beginning of the Highland tours, not only playing to small towns and villages throughout the Highlands & Islands, and to the Northern Islands – Orkney and Shetland - but also playing audiences in Northern Ireland. It also entertained many isolated service camps.

Summer variety shows by other companies included topliners such as Harry Gordon, Dave Willis and Charlie Kemble's Co-optimists. In July 1941 Perth's entertainment impresario Jimmy Currie, who had built the Alhambra Theatre and the Perth Pavilion, presented three variety weeks of Scotland for Ever with members of his various performance companies. It was under the banner of W. T. Productions of Glasgow because Currie was trying to regain his financial feet and experiment with new ideas.

Every performance finale starting with a lone bagpiper and dancers developed into a rapturous and thunderous waterfall, cascading from curtain height and the full width of the stage, transformed from a river seen running through the misty moors and glens, as its Highland climatic finale. It involved tons of pipework. A few years later he soon emerged as the Water Supremo, devising numerous aquatic features on stages in Britain, France, the Middle East and the USA, most notably Las Vegas and New York.

When hostilities ended the company resumed its Perth Theatre Festival. In accepting the invitation to be the Festival's Patron in 1945 James Bridie wrote:- "The decision to revive the Perth Festival is a very gallant one at this particular time. It would be surprising in any other body than the Perth Theatre Company; but we have learned to expect panache from that admirable company. They have done more to revive or create drama in Scotland than anybody else, and they have done it going ahead without looking backwards or sideways. This seems to me to be the proper spirit.

Their ten years' work has resulted in an awakening all over Scotland, and they have now strong allies in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. It might not be incorrect to say that none of these theatres would have existed if the little and Fair City had not fought their forlorn hope for them. I look forward to the time when Perth will invite these theatres and other theatres yet unborn to co-operate in making Perth a Scottish Salzburg." - James Bridie, 1945.

A Perth Theatre Company Programme Cover design for the 1940s and 1950s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.At the end of the war the company was offered financial help from CEMA, forerunner of the Arts Council, on condition that they found some way get rid of the system of weekly repertory and do instead fortnightly repertory [an idea Dence had voiced in 1938 at the Scottish Theatre Society]. Perth itself could not support production for more than one week. The Company looked around for some other place to exchange productions with Perth.

Kirkcaldy was the choice, and a second company of performers was formed. The two companies alternated which had the benefit of one week's rehearsal of a play resulting in two weeks of performing – one in Perth and one in Kirkcaldy – mainly at the Adam Smith Hall. In the early 1950s there was a Kirkcaldy proposal to build a new Theatre in that town, to accommodate 750, with Perth Repertory Theatre expressing their desire to be its lessee. But it was not built. Perth's second company and its association with Kirkcaldy continued until 1958.

Left - A Perth Theatre Company Programme Cover design for the 1940s and 1950s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

It was in 1946, with the opening of this second company, that they became formally associated with the Arts Council, who now gave them a certain amount of financial help each year, to include tours of the lowland towns of the Borders.

Under the 1947 Companies Act the company's constitution was changed to a non-profit-distributing one, and the control of the Theatre was broadened by the formation of a committee of management chaired by former provost George. T. McGlashan, Perth County convenor, who also chaired the Scottish Committee of the Arts Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. On showing her new chairman around her Theatre Marjorie Dence was asked what was the most urgent requirement. The answer was 3,000 yards of scenic canvas - they were still using the much-painted canvas inherited from the Saviles – but she had no money to buy them nor the necessary 3,000 coupons required by war-time rationing which continued long into peacetime. Very soon 3,000 coupons emerged and the money to buy the new canvas.

Each year the nine months work, before three months of summer touring, also embraced regular openings each year at venues in Fife, Angus and Stirling in the winter months. Perth Repertory productions featured frequently on BBC wireless.

Perth was a Festival of Britain Arts Festival town in 1951 and at the end of May celebrated the first official visit of Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen), the day ending with a Royal Gala of Twelfth Night in the Theatre. Marjorie Dence was awarded the MBE for her services to the Festival of Britain.

The Auditorium of the Perth Theatre as decorated for most of its years - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.

Above - The Auditorium of the Perth Theatre as decorated for most of its years - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.

Commercial television started in 1957 thanks to Scottish Television (STV) owned by (Lord) Roy Thomson, and based at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. STV's lack of drama was first answered by a full-length play by Perth Repertory Company appearing on the small screen on 30 January 1959. Perth had received some of the Scottish Repertory Trust funding created by Thomson. It was a romantic comedy 'The Open', the first programme from the Theatre Royal's huge Studio C and included film inserts from St Andrews golf course. However, the course was covered in deep snow which local volunteers cleared away from the scenes only to find ice covering the grass. The burgh council came to the rescue with a lorry full of sand to spread over it!

In 1959 Perth Town Council and the County Council considered an open letter from Marjorie Dence, seeking a civic contribution:- "Your Council will be aware that the present management has kept the doors of Perth Theatre open for the last twenty-four years without asking for any local financial aid, providing a nine months' repertory season and a three months' summer variety season each year. During this time the Theatre has earned a great reputation for itself far beyond the confines of its native city. I do not think it is too much to say that it has brought a certain amount of honour to Perth besides providing a valuable amenity for the city. In common with most Theatres throughout the country, Perth Theatre is finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. Until last year we have managed to balance our budget but at the end of our last financial year we ended up in the red." - Of all Scotland's repertory companies Perth was the most travelled.

A photograph of Joan Knight - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.When she died in 1966 her will gave first option to the Scottish Arts Council to buy the Theatre and help it continue. The arts council did buy it and transferred it to Perth Council. The same year saw the extension of community involvement with the formation of Perth Youth Theatre within the Theatre. The gods were closed in 1967.

Left - A photograph of Joan Knight - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.

The changeover settled in 1968 when Joan Knight, from Lancashire, was appointed artistic director. She continued repertory seasons while at the same reinstating the original name PERTH THEATRE. Joan Knight had directed productions mainly with repertory companies around England but also in the early 1950s was a stage manager at Perth Theatre. In many ways the indefatigable Knight became the First Lady of theatre in Scotland during her 26 years tenure.

In addition to encouraging new plays, adding them to her general repertoire including pantomime, she mentored new performers and future would-be directors. She also found time to direct plays in Theatres on both sides of the border – and in America and Russia - and in the late 1970s stepped in as director at Pitlochry Theatre, 25 miles northwards, to help steady that Theatre at a time of change over some two years.

A photograph showing renovation work at the Perth Theatre in July 1980 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.After a decade, the auditorium was totally refurbished and a restaurant and new workshop added, to be soon followed by a Studio Theatre. The Theatre now boasted the only computerised wardrobe in the country. The Gannochy Trust paid for most of the £2m expenditure and the reopening in 1981 was heralded by a Royal Gala attended by Princess Alexandra.

Right - A photograph showing renovation work at the Perth Theatre in July 1980 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre.

Productions proved very popular with all sections of the public and during the 1980s 90% of seats were sold by subscription. Prior to Joan Knight's retiral in the following decade The Glasgow Herald wrote:- "This is a theatre where the books balance, the 500 seats are blissfully comfortable, the brasses shine, the woodwork gleams, the mirrors sparkle, and even the pile on the carpet stands to attention! In the restaurant the linen is starched, and the waitress service comes with a big smile, as does the outgoing artistic director."

The Glasgow Herald continued:- "In the 1980s, when it became obvious that Perth Theatre, for all its period attractiveness, lacked all the backstage and front of house facilities which had become necessary to tempt audiences away from television, she approached the Gannochy Trust, founded by whisky distiller A. K. Bell, as a sponsor of her proposed extension programme." [The architects for which were Gordon & Dey, of Edinburgh, who recently had designed the new Gannochy Sports Pavilion.]

"In two stages she had all she wished for - refurbished auditorium and lavishly extended front of house as well as backstage improvements including a studio-theatre-cum-rehearsal space - virtually giving Perth a new theatre with no debts."

A Perspective showing the proposed new Studio Theatre in the Perth Theatre when it opens in 2017 - Courtesy Richard Murphy architects.In 2008 the council's successor Perth & Kinross Council engaged architects Richard Murphy to plan for a major renewal, resulting in Perth Theatre going dark in 2014/15, this included clearance of the 1980s additions and a proposed reopening in December 2017 after an investment of £16m.

Right - A Perspective showing the proposed new Studio Theatre in the Perth Theatre when it opens in 2017 - Courtesy Richard Murphy architects.

The curtain will go up on a restored Victorian auditorium, including reinstated orchestra pit and reopening of the gods; new 200 seated Studio Theatre; more spacious circulation and catering areas; fully accessible including a lift to all levels; and the main entrance now focussed on Mill Street.

The Stage and Auditorium of the Perth Theatre whilst being restored in 2017 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team.

Above - The Stage and Auditorium of the Perth Theatre whilst being restored in 2017 - Courtesy the Perth Theatre Project team.

A Perspective showing the proposed new circulation and catering areas of the Perth Theatre when it opens in 2017 - Courtesy Richard Murphy architects.

Above - A Perspective showing the proposed new circulation and catering areas of the Perth Theatre when it opens in 2017 - Courtesy Richard Murphy architects.

More images and layouts can be seen at the architects' website here, and at the council's Horsecross management website here.

You may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here.

The above article on the Perth Theatre was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Perth Concert Hall, Mill Street at Horsecross, Perth

A Google StreetView Image of the Perth Concert Hall - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Perth Concert Hall - Click to Interact.

The Perth Concert Hall - Courtesy Horsecross for Perth & Kinross Council.Perth & Kinross Council opened its modern, glazed, Perth Concert Hall in 2005 in the Horsecross area of Mill Street. It was designed by architects Building Design Partnership of Glasgow who provide further images and detail here.

Right - The Perth Concert Hall - Courtesy Horsecross for Perth & Kinross Council.

The oval building is topped with a copper domed roof and has an oblong main hall - the Gannochy Auditorium - which can seat 1,200 or have 1,300 standing. It also has the Norie-Miller studio accommodating 150.

The building accommodates conferences, concerts – classical and pop - and contemporary art and is operated by the Council's arms-length cultural charity, Horsecross, whose programme of events can be seen here.

The above article on the Perth Concert Hall was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The City Hall, King Edward Street, Perth

The First City Hall, City Hall Square, 1845 / The Second City Hall, King Edward Street, 1910

A google StreetView Image showing the 1910 built City Hall, Perth - Click to Interact.

Above - A google StreetView Image showing the 1910 built City Hall, Perth - Click to Interact.

The old City Hall, Perth before demolition in 1908 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The town council responded to public demand and provided a fully operating City Hall which duly opened in 1845 in a central area which hosted several food markets, and church presbyteries. The central site of the new hall had been the Butter Market, and nearby was the Fruit Market and the Flesh Market. The area in front of the hall was now declared to be City Hall Square.

Right - The old City Hall, Perth before demolition in 1908 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

It was designed by William McKenzie the highly regarded City Architect, although in this case because of its neighbouring buildings it was a somewhat makeshift construction. It accommodated 1,800 people, equal to some 1,300 if seated for dinners. At political hustings it could pack in about 3,000. Larger than the County Hall in County Buildings, its internal pillars had elaborately carved capitals and the richly modelled plasterwork on the ceiling was painted and gilded.

The Perthshire Advertiser described it on its opening:- "The Hall itself is a building ninety-seven feet in length, by sixty-six in breadth, and entirely lighted from the roof, which is supported by sixteen cast-iron pillars, twenty-one feet in height, although, we believe, the distance from the floor to the highest part of the ceiling measures about twenty-five feet. Immediately above the capital of each pillar is placed a figure kneeling, supporting a shield on the breast, which has a very pleasant effect; while at the distance of about nine feet from the floor, each pillar is farther ornamented with six gas burners - making ninety-six in all, exclusive of seven lights in the gallery - which, when lighted, give the Hall a splendid appearance, and throw out a magnificent volume of light. A platform, capable of containing from thirty to forty persons, is erected on the west side of the Hall, and fronting the two entrance doors; and above the entrance lobby, and directly opposite to the platform, is an elegant gallery, the access to which is by a stair from the lobby, containing about 140 sittings, which will be available for either music or spectators."

An advertisement in May 1846 for Horatio Lloyd's Concert in the City Hall, Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.For over 50 years it was the focal point of town meetings, rallies, exhibitions, lectures, soirees, public dinners, entertainments and musical concerts. It staged productions by civic societies, touring theatre companies, opera companies and concert parties including those supplied by Horatio Lloyd; by David Brown's Philharmonic Concert Rooms, Glasgow and by Morison Kyle of Glasgow who also operated the Exchange Rooms, Paisley and managed the Comic Concert tours of Arthur Lloyd in the 1860s and 70s, among others.

Left - An advertisement in May 1846 for Horatio Lloyd's Concert in the City Hall, Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In September 1847 there was a Grand Evening Concert in the City Hall starring Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, arranged by Edmund Glover who also presented her for one evening in Edinburgh and two in Glasgow.

Glover established two committees to help oversee the arrangements, one in Perth under its Lord Provost and one in Dundee under its Lord Provost. One third of the hall in all its departments was reserved for Dundee, whose already-expensive ticketing included an inclusive train return ticket from Dundee to Perth.

A portrait of Jenny Lind - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The prices in Perth were also very high, and in and around the city concert goers complained that even the omnibus operators had lifted their charges for the event!

Right - A portrait of Jenny Lind - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Jenny Lind sang four songs in English from her repertoire and two in Swedish. From her tours in Scotland Glover netted £3,000, enough to launch the Princes Theatre, West Nile Street, Glasgow and he soon added the Theatre Royal in the city's Dunlop Street to his portfolio. Horatio Lloyd writes on Glover's engagement of Jenny Lind in his autobiography here.

The City Hall shrugged off competition from the well-intentioned New Public Hall & Opera House which opened in Tay Street in the 1880s. Some producers such as actor J. B. Howard, future founder of Howard & Wyndham, presented plays in both venues.

The New City Hall, King Edward Street, Perth

By the start of the 20th century there were calls for a modern City Hall and in 1908 the old hall was demolished and its site, plus further ground, was taken over for a far larger and better equipped new City Hall.

A Postcard showing the new City Hall, Perth which opened officially in 1911 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The new and substantial City Hall, designed akin to Solomon's Temple by Glasgow architect Henry Edward Clifford (who had won the architectural competition) opened officially in May 1911 but had been open for business since September 1910. Ionic columns fronted the entrance to the Beaux-Arts building on King Edward Street.

Right - A Postcard showing the new City Hall, Perth which opened officially in 1911 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

It housed two halls, the larger with organ, choir seating and a gallery, and the lesser hall with a stage at its north end. For the best part of a century it served the city for meetings, conferences, exhibitions, concerts and entertainment.

When the council opened its Perth Concert Hall in 2005 the City Hall became redundant, with the council announcing its decision to proceed with its demolition and to restyle its very large site as an open-air Market Square with continental-style uses. This met with public outcry and a reminder that Perth's climate is not Mediterranean! Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, stepped forward to agree with the public and the council relented. It has held an architectural competition inviting proposals for future use of the City Hall. From the many responses five firms were short-listed in 2017 and can be seen here.

The announced winner of the competition is Mecanoo, from the Netherlands, who have been awarded the contract for the next stage; further details can be seen here.

The above article on the City Hall, Perth was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Theatre Royal, Athole Street at Kinnoull Street (Now 7 Atholl Street)

A Google StreetView Image showing Atholl Street, Perth and the former Theatre Royal building - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image showing Atholl Street, Perth and the former Theatre Royal building - Click to Interact.

An 1820 advertisement for the opening of Perth Theatre Royal - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Perth's first purpose-built Theatre, the Theatre Royal, opened in 1820 in Athole Street at the corner of Kinnoull Street "and formed an elegant termination to the west end of Athole Crescent." The building continues today but not as a Theatre, its modern address being 7 Atholl Street (note the new spelling).

Right - An 1820 advertisement for the opening of Perth Theatre Royal - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

It was most active through to the late 1830s, and sometimes run by lessees of Theatres in Dundee and Aberdeen and other places on the Northern Circuit, particularly by Corbet Ryder and his family. He came from Cheshire, where he was managing clerk in an extensive iron works. His first visit to Perth was in 1817 when he enacted Rob Roy shortly after Sir Walter Scott's dramatized novel had its premiere in Glasgow's Theatre Royal. Riding on its tide, he cleared £800 in his first two seasons. With the closing of the Old Grammar School Theatre venue (which later burned down in 1824) the Ryders moved to Aberdeen in 1819, but one year earlier in August 1818 he had advertised in the Perthshire Courier that the town needed a New Theatre to be erected and could achieve this if Subscription Lists were opened. With support from young Sir David Moncreiffe - one of Perthshire's prominent landowners and first captain of the Royal Perth Golf Society - (whose son Sir Thomas Moncreiffe became a noted natural scientist and educationalist) - the Subscription investors came forward. The way was clear at the end of 1819 to start building. The Perth Theatre Proprietors happily saw their new Theatre, the Theatre Royal, open and with Corbet Ryder as its lessee for the next three years. Dividends were paid for many years!

Slightly taller than its neighbours in Atholl Crescent, the playhouse has a three-bay front to Atholl Street and a six-bay elevation to Kinnoull Street. The ground floor features arched windows. It had a pit, circle and nine dress circle boxes, an upper gallery and two gallery boxes where the musicians were placed – there being no orchestral dock in front of the stage. It was advertised as being "comfortably heated with stoves" and regarded by writers as being "very neat and elegant but not very commodious."

Unfortunately, but perhaps typically, there was little space back-stage. The pit-circle boxes were later removed to permit more people to attend. Thought originally to have accommodated 500 people, a few reports of very popular events claim that some 450 were in the gallery... but no collapse!

An enlargeable map of Perth in the 1830s shows the Theatre highlighted in Atholl Street here.

Shakespearian actor William Macready - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The Theatre raised its curtain on 28 August 1820 with the first of two highly successful weeks of William Macready in Shakespearian plays. Ryder's regulations were advertised as to how boxes and pit could be filled and entrance paid including:-

"Ladies and Gentlemen taking places, are requested to send their servants to keep them."
"Carriages will set down with the horses' heads towards the Barracks, and take up on a contrary direction."

Shakespearian actor William Macready (shown left), then age 27, was engaged by Ryder for a three-week tour of Perth, Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose and Aberdeen – all being Theatres under his control. The leading actress for the opening was Miss Catherine Atkins, daughter of Ryder's scene painter, and a few years later she became Mrs William Macready.

Over its several decades the Theatre staged drama, concerts, variety, musical comedies, opera, some exhibitions and panoramas. Visiting Theatre companies came from Scottish cities and from Newcastle and London. It also served as a meeting hall but was deemed not too comfortable for that.

It became a favourite venue of the Gaelic Society of Perthshire for concerts and competitions for piping and song to the extent that the society presented Mr Ryder with a Highland broad-sword suitably inscribed with gratitude.

However, in June 1825 the newspapers reported that:- "Last week, a meeting of the proprietors of the Perth Theatre, called by advertisement, was held in the George Inn for the purpose of considering the propriety of converting that edifice to some other purpose, or disposing of it entirely by public sale. Neither of these proposals was adopted at the meeting; it being resolved to retain the property for its present purpose, and to advertise it in the London and other newspapers, to let it by lease to any respectable theatrical manager." A new lessee started and gas lighting was introduced, at his suggestion, later in that year.

An early postcard showing the Salutation Hotel, Perth, and next to it, the former Theatre Royal - Courtesy Graeme Smith.For music and dramatic recitation one of its competitors - and competition to its predecessors - was the Salutation Inn Assembly Rooms, (which was that hotel's ballroom, and previously known as the Salutation Hall, where the Royal Mail, Union, Inverness and Glasgow coaches arrived daily). It frequently staged concerts with greater attendances than the Theatre Royal.

Right - An early postcard showing the Salutation Hotel, Perth, and next to it, the former Theatre Royal - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

One evening in May 1826 the Theatre was opened for the first time as a ballroom, by the dance-academy principal who regularly gave classes to the spritely offspring of Perth, newspapers observing:-

"The pit was covered on a level with the front of the stage, which was thrown open to its farthest extremity. The whole had a beautiful appearance. The front of the boxes being decorated with festoons of flowers and evergreens, gave an agreeable relief to the glare of the gas-lamps between them. The orchestra, strengthened by the principal members of the quadrille band of Forfar, and Mr Smith, professor of music in Dundee, who presided at the piano-forte, together with Mr Nicolson's own powerful violin, furnished excellent music. The deportment and proficiency of the pupils seemed to give much satisfaction to a crowded circle of beauty and fashion in the boxes."

Another favourite lessee was the enterprising comedian Charles Bass, hailing from Tyneside, leasing Dundee and Perth Theatres, and also operating in England and Ireland. In 1828 he dramatized Sir Walter Scott's novel of the Fair Maid of Perth and brought it out in Perth Theatre "in a very superior manner, adding considerably to his treasury."

In November 1831 Paganini, and his musicians and vocalist, gave a two-hour concert in the Theatre which was totally packed even with prices which had soared to 7/6d for the boxes and pit and 3/6d for the gallery... newspapers commenting that "some of the richest people in the county have taken places in the latter." Before the concert – which grossed £140 - the Perthshire Courier hoped that the audience difficulty in the Dress Circle which afflicted Edinburgh and elsewhere would be avoided, by ensuring that smaller head-dresses would be worn!

An advertisement for an Horatio Lloyd Benefit Night in November 1847 in the Theatre Royal Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Mr Horatio Lloyd starred in the Theatre Royal in 1847 and in the previous two years he was head-lining in the new City Hall. Edmund Glover, then with the Edinburgh Theatre Royal company, trod the boards in the 1840s and would soon return to Perth under his own steam.

Left - An advertisement for an Horatio Lloyd Benefit Night in November 1847 in the Theatre Royal Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

When the City Hall opened in 1845 accommodating 1,800 people the Theatre Royal drastically declined in popularity. The New Statistical Account of Scotland, for Perth, published in the 1840s added a sniffy footnote about the Theatre, elegant building that it was:-

"This place of amusement has fallen very much into disrepute. Few inhabitants of any respectability frequent it. Prices of admission have been lately lowered, not to the improvements of the morals of the place, for that has brought to it the lowest and most questionable characters of society." And it referred to a correspondent of one of the Perthshire papers who identified "the multitude of its frequenters with the baser sort who squander their means in tippling-houses."

An advertisement by Edward Glover for the William Macready Farewell of 1850 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.It closed its doors around 1850 largely unwanted and unprofitable. One of its last hurrahs was in September 1850 when Edmund Glover hired it for one evening of "Mr Macready's Farewell of the Stage", some twenty-nine years after William Macready had graced the opening of the Theatre. In some ways this was Glover's compensation for Perth not seeing Jenny Lind on her second visit to Scotland, managed again by Glover. The first was in 1847 in the City Hall.

Right - An advertisement by Edward Glover for the William Macready Farewell of 1850 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Perth's Theatre Royal was finally sold in 1860 for other purposes, initially for the manufacturing of gents clothing for John Jamieson whose retail shops were in Perth, Stirling, Fife and Aberdeen. Its restrained arched facade remains today and the building contains a restaurant.

More about the productions in the town's early Theatre venues, including the Theatre Royal, may be read here.

The above article on the Theatre Royal, Perth was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The City Theatre, Canal Street, Perth

An advertisement for Duckenfield's Theatre in May 1869 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Following a first season in 1869 in his portable Mammoth Theatre on a site at the Old Shore, at the Tay Street end of Canal Street, George Duckenfield erected his commodious wooden City Theatre, near to his first site and close to the County Buildings.

Right - An advertisement for Duckenfield's Theatre in May 1869 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Properly heated and complete with gallery, it held around 1,000 people enjoying his Excelsior Company's full range of plays and comedies throughout 1870.

Duckenfield also staged productions in the City Hall.

The above article on the City Theatre, Perth was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The New Public Hall and Opera House, Canal Street at South Tay Street, Perth

Perth's New Public Hall & Opera House photographed to the left of the County Buildings in Tay Street- Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - Perth's New Public Hall & Opera House photographed to the left of the County Buildings in Tay Street- Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The prestigious Flemish-Renaissance buildings on Tay Street facing the river were to be joined by three sister buildings aimed at improving further the civic amenity and educational facilities of Perth. Merchants, most notably those involved in textile dyeing such as the Sandeman family, after whom the Sandeman Public Library (& Art Gallery) was named, and Robert Pullar, Perth's "Prince of Industry" and a future member of parliament for the town, urged the council to support a new town hall which could also house concerts and opera. The council gave tacit support but kept its hands in its pockets. A similar initiative elsewhere had resulted in the creation of Glasgow's St Andrews Halls, opening at the end of 1877 with Handel's Messiah.

A Postcard of Sir Robert Pullar of Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The lead was taken by Robert Pullar, owner of Pullars of Perth - Dyers to the Queen – who also introduced dry cleaning to Britain from Germany, thanks to his sister-in-law's German family. He proposed in 1879 that a company be formed to create a new public hall for the town. The Public Hall Company, Perth Ltd was started that year with shares being held by many merchants. One of its directors was John Jamieson who had bought the Theatre Royal building.

Right - A Postcard of Sir Robert Pullar of Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Land was acquired in South Tay Street at Canal Street, close to the classical County Buildings and Perth's leading architect and engineer John Young now designed three buildings in unison, all in Scots Baronial style. All opened in 1881. The first to open was the new public hall.

The middle building of the three contained halls and rooms, accommodating about 700 boys and girls, and were the gift of Robert Pullar; planned for the use of the Perth Working Boys and Girls Religious Association. It was known as the Childrens' Church and would help their religious and day education and work-training.

The third was the Perthshire Society of Natural Science's ornate Lecture Hall, Library and Moncreiffe Memorial Museum built for educational purposes (another Pullar munificence) and to house the collections of the late Sir Thomas Moncreiffe, educationalist and son of the patron of the former Theatre Royal. All three buildings were connected and could open to permit promenade throughout.

The new Public Hall & Opera House was the main hall which could also operate as a concert hall-cum-opera house. In September 1880 the Dundee Courier reported on progress:- "The work, which is now far advanced, shows a frontage to Tay Street of 76 feet, and to Canal Street of 148 feet. The interior dimensions, which are somewhat less than those of the Kinnaird Hall, in Dundee, are - length, 119 feet; width, 56 feet; and height from floor to ceiling, 40 feet. To render it acoustically efficient, the hall has been made of oblong shape, and will be lined with wood to make it resonant, and have the roof coned on all sides. The ceiling and walls will not be entirely plain, but broken by means of light pilasters, so that the sound wave may not run too rapidly to the further end of the hall, and render the centre part defective in its acoustic qualities. At the west end there is a large fixed platform or proscenium, and at the east end is a gallery intended for the dress circle. The platform is arranged to be suitable for concert, operatic, or dramatic performances. A movable orchestra can be made and stowed away ready for use in front of the stage at any time, and at balls the centre part of the stage can be utilised for supper or refreshments.

The main floor of the hall is made with a slope of 15 feet from the stage to the front the gallery, under which it is much greater. This slope will not interfere with dancing purposes, and will be a great advantage for seeing. It is proposed to seat the body of the hall with chairs bound together with spars of wood, which can be unscrewed at pleasure and stowed away under the stage. There are six retiring rooms, with suitable conveniences, situated on either side of the main entrance, and space for an organ; three apartments under the platform for performers; two apartments in the north-west part of the hall for the keeper; and three apartments under the minor hall, which can be utilised as offices. The entrance to the dress circle, which is seated for 165 persons, is from Tay Street, the main public door being in Canal Street. The dress circle seats will be hung pivots. At night the hall will be lighted by three sunlights fixed in the ceiling, which will also serve as ventilators."

John Young travelled widely looking at theatres and halls in London and elsewhere to inform his design for Perth Opera House. Just ahead of its opening in 1881 Robert Pullar purchased a full range of brass band instruments, including two dozen music stands and music sheets for his North British Dye Works employees, to form Pullar's Band which would also be available for concerts each winter for the new public hall, and parks in the summer. Pullar had gifted an organ to the City Hall, which was later renewed by him for the second City Hall; and gifted his own Tayside House organ to Perth Poorhouse.

The opening concert in the well-designed and furnished venue, seating 1,000, was Handel's Messiah, followed by a week of plays staged by J. B. Howard of Edinburgh Theatre Royal. Plays, opera - including D'Oyle Carte's company – pantomime and concerts developed in the early years but the trustees were unsure as to whether they should employ a manager licensed to stage plays or be just a hall venue for others who may come from time to time with their own company licensed. When it became known in 1883 that the council was planning to upgrade the City Hall the Opera House retaliated by bringing their gallery forward nearer the stage and in the space behind constructed a gymnasium, and a second minor hall to generate extra income.

Edmund Stiles, the first manager, also marketed the Public Hall as the Perth "Theatre Royal" running it in conjunction with his lease of Stirling's Arcade Theatre in 1884 and 1885. Those engaged at Perth included Arthur Lloyd in his Our Party in both these years. Companies often performed three nights in Stirling and three in Perth.

Dramatist Madame Bandmann-Palmer - Courtesy Graeme Smith.After Stiles left to manage Eastbourne Theatre Royal, J. H. Murray, one of the gentleman directors, became managing director with orchestra leader George Dixon as manager whose early trade adverts announced that "Perth was a Good Three Nights' Town, which could be worked well with Stirling and Dunfermline."

Other managers in the following years included John Tully formerly of Coatbridge and Paisley theatres. A frequent actress-manager was Millicent Bandmann-Palmer touring her own drama company. She earned the reputation of having "a stern grip on a young company and a tight rein on the finances."

Left - Dramatist Madame Bandmann-Palmer - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The venue became more of a concert hall and place for meetings and soirees. Within its decade the company folded as the townsfolk preferred the larger, more central but ageing City Hall. It was put up for sale by roup in 1889, with no success, and meetings and entertainments continued through to Summer 1891 when the Arthur Rouseby Opera Company was one of the last performances.

In 1891 the town's Baptist congregation, of which Robert Pullar was a member, bought the public hall and adjoining rooms, making it Perth's main Baptist Church until it was destroyed by fire in 1984.

The neighbouring Moncreiffe Museum continued until 1934 when it became a masonic hall after its collections moved in to Perth's new Art Gallery & Museum.

A Google StreetView Image showing the site of the former New Perth Public Hall and Opera House - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image showing the site of the former New Perth Public Hall and Opera House - Click to Interact.

The above article on the New Public Hall and Opera House, Perth was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Alhambra Theatre, Kinnoull Street, Perth

Later - The Gaumont / Odeon

Perth's Alhambra Theatre - Courtesy Bruce Peter.

Above - Perth's Alhambra Theatre - Courtesy Bruce Peter.

An LMS railway travel poster for Perth of the 1930s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.James Currie – later to be famed as Jimmy Currie the Water Supremo, staging spectacular aquatic productions here and overseas – was born in Hamilton in 1891. James Currie, senior, was a master plasterer and in the 1920s would help his son build the Alhambra Theatre, Perth.

Right - An LMS railway travel poster for Perth of the 1930s - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

After training as a projectionist in Glasgow he was sent to Perth to help run Bennell's BB Picture Palace / Cinerama in Victoria Street which opened in 1913 after being a church then an ice rink.

After a spell in Dundee he reopened in 1917 the La Scala Picture House in Scott Street and refurbished it in the style of the new Savoy Picture House in Hope Street, Glasgow.

He invested in promoting the La Scala, plus a pierrot troupe on the North Inch - Currie becoming that Pavilion's owner - and silent films and revues on Saturday nights and during holiday seasons in the City Hall. By 1920 he had become an elected member of the Town Council. Soon his La Scala cinema, larger Pavilion Theatre on the South Inch, the Broadway Theatre at Dundee, pierrots at Broughty Ferry, and the Beach Pavilion, Arbroath all came under the Currie banner. From his main base at Perth's Pavilion Theatre he produced revues which toured Scotland and England over two decades.

While continuing to lease the La Scala until the arrival of the Talkies, Currie announced in 1921 that he was planning to build a new theatre in Perth's Kinnoull Street. The Alhambra Theatre fully equipped for film and for large stage production was declared open in April 1922 by Mrs Frank Eastman, a soloist in her own right and wife of the managing director of Pullars of Perth.

The Dundee Courier reported: - "New Theatre for Perth - Interesting Opening Ceremony - The new Alhambra Theatre erected in Kinnoull Street, Perth, by Currie Enterprises, Ltd., was opened Saturday before a large and representative attendance. Capable of comfortably seating an audience of 1200, the Alhambra, in addition to being centrally situated, is tastefully decorated and upholstered in blue. Tip-up seats are provided in all parts, and it is the purpose of the management to bring all classes of entertainment to the city. Mr James Currie, managing director, presided at the opening ceremony, and Mr W. Edwards, Dundee, chairman of the Company, introduced Mrs Frank Eastman to raise the curtain. Mr Alexander K. Beaton, Perth, architect, in presenting the electric " push " to Mrs Eastman, expressed the hope that the curtain would be rung up for many years, and that the theatre would give pleasure to the citizens of Perth. Mrs Eastman said she appreciated the honour of being asked to open the theatre, and she trusted it would be a great success. She hoped it would have an influence for good, and be a place where they would be able to forget their worries, and from which they would go home bright and happy. The company afterwards enjoyed variety entertainment, which promised well for the future, and tea was served."

Theatre chronicler Bruce Peter writes: - "Architect A K Beaton designed a lavish interior with marble stairs and marquetry panels in the foyers and in the auditorium. There was one large balcony and stage boxes, all covered in ornately gilded plaster in the Louis XVI style. There was a large stage and dressing rooms and the screen could be hoisted into the fly tower. The exterior was less successful, being a lumpish mixture of brick and stone dressings."

Currie hosted revues, major musical comedies from London's West-end, and opera.

Perth's Alhambra Theatre when it became the Gaumont - Courtesy Graeme Smith.However, Currie Enterprises Ltd, formed to help fund the Theatre, was not successful in attracting sufficient numbers of public shareholders and in 1923 was wound up, with Thomas Ormiston of Motherwell buying the new Theatre and adding it to the Ormiston Circuit – which later became part of the Gaumont and Rank circuits.

Right - Perth's Alhambra Theatre when it became the Gaumont - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Ormiston concentrated more on film but had occasional stagings of musicals and opera in the Alhambra. The large companies greatly enjoyed the back-stage spaces and numerous dressing rooms in contrast to the town's much smaller Theatre in High Street. The Alhambra subsequently changed its name and interior in the 1950s to Gaumont, and then to Odeon, housed bingo after 1980 and finally became a nightclub before being destroyed by fire in 1993. More photographs of the Alhambra building can be seen here, and here.

Jimmy Currie carried on his entertainment businesses centred in Perth. It was after losing Dundee's Broadway Theatre in 1939 that he had to rethink. His summer revue of July 1941 in Perth Theatre in High Street, with his innovative aquatic scenes as the finale, showed him the way to new things in production world-wide.

The above article on the Alhambra Theatre, Perth was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Pavilion Theatre, South Inch and North Inch, Perth

The South Inch Pavilion - The North Inch Pavilion

Of the many extensive public parklands on both banks of the River Tay the oldest are the North Inch and the South Inch, and each had Pavilions for entertainments and music longer than any other. The town council soon appointed a director of concerts for both the North Inch, with a major bandstand built there in the 1890s, and the South Inch.

The North Inch Pavilion

A Postcard of the North Inch, Perth around 1904 showing early Pierrots Stance close to the boat-stations on the banks of the Tay - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Postcard of the North Inch, Perth around 1904 showing early Pierrots Stance close to the boat-stations on the banks of the Tay - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The North Inch parklands and sports fields had, at least from 1850, bands playing in summer evenings "eloquent music to large gatherings, principally consisting of the working classes, for whom the entertainment is chiefly intended. The merit of promoting this delightful and gratifying source of amusement is mainly due to Councillor Fraser." There was also dancing. Around 1900 a Pierrot Stance was created in the North Inch on the greensward close to the river boat-stations.

James Currie, operator of La Scala picture house and future developer of the Alhambra Theatre, sought his own open-air pavilion to provide pierrot entertainments for citizens and holidaymakers. It began in 1920 and continued to 1926 and was sited close to the start of the park at 2 Tay Street, between the Prince Albert Memorial and the 90th Regiment obelisk. Erected and then taken down each year his Pavilion was used for 4 months each summer. The Currie Entertainers toured other Theatres in the winter months on both sides of the border, returning to Perth each summer.

He was keen to construct a permanent building on either of the Inches. In early 1927 he asked to find ground from the council for a permanent concert pavilion on North Inch next to the Balhousie Castle walls (most likely the site now used for AK Bell Sports Pavilion, which was to be designed by Currie's architect John S. Dow), but the council declined to make the roads up to full standard. Thereafter he concentrated his efforts to build permanently on the South Inch, where he already had a temporary pavilion.

South Inch Pavilion

A Postcard of the South Inch drive, Perth, viewing to Marshall Place - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Postcard of the South Inch drive, Perth, viewing to Marshall Place - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

A Postcard showing Perth`s Pavilion Theatre, South Inch - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In 1882 there was a temporary Wooden Theatre conducted by J. H. Collins on the South Inch presenting plays. And later that year another operator Johnny Mathewson, comedian, staged variety and authorised plays in it, now known as the "New Theatre Royal and Palace of Varieties."

Right - A Postcard showing Perth`s Pavilion Theatre, South Inch - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Around the 1900s pierrot troupes featured here and on the North Inch, with the council encouraging them to use only the North Inch.

Perth's Jimmy Currie in later life - Courtesy Graeme Smith.James Currie's South Inch pavilion opened in June 1920 as a temporary building, where he staged revues and pantomime. In 1928 he erected a permanent building situated at the north end of the eastern portion of South Inch, on grounds mainly used as the Show Ground for circuses and carnivals. It held over 600 people.

Left - Perth's Jimmy Currie in later life - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

His nationwide revue companies from Perth started as Currie's Entertainers in his Pavilion Theatre (with Jack E. Raymond as one of his early producers) which opened for four months each year until 1927 and longer from 1928, and in Scotland, England and Wales theatre touring took place in the winters taking names such as Zuries (No.1 and No.2 companies) and The Sparklets, with comedians Bert Denver, and Mark Denison, being among constant top-liners in the casts over two decades.

Comedian Bert Denver - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Plays, drama festivals, concerts and repertory seasons - often the Mansfield Players - also filled the Theatre from 1928. In February 1929 the Pavilion Theatre hosted the professional debut of Joe Corrie's Fife Miner Players, the first of his many radical plays being "In Time o'Strife". The Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian reported on the development: - "PROFESSIONAL DEBUT AT PERTH - The inky depths of the mine and the brilliant glitter of the stage are spheres of life which seem as the poles asunder, but the Fife Miner Players, who began their professional career behind the footlights at Perth Pavilion on Monday night, have bridged the gap successfully, and in so doing have brought no little fame to themselves.

Right - Comedian Bert Denver - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Comedian Mark Denison - Courtesy Graeme Smith.These men and women from Bowhill are no actors; they are most emphatic on that point. They are players in so far that they present the things they know so well; they do not act; they live their own lives on the stage, and the result is more wonderful than any acting could possibly produce.

Left - Comedian Mark Denison - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The players had their beginning in the black days of the coal strike of 1926 and by sheer talent have climbed, until now they have been deemed worthy of a place on the professional stage.

Poet and playwright Joe Corrie - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Their stage manager is Mr Joe Corrie, the well-known miner poet, and during rehearsal on Monday he told the players' tale. "In 1926," he said, "eight of us formed a small party in order play at the free-and-easy concerts which were held throughout the mining area to augment the soup kitchen funds. We were so successful that I invited Mr Hugh Roberton, conductor of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, who is a personal friend of mine, to come to Cardenden to see one our plays. He was very struck with our show, saying that it was something different to what he had expected. He went further than that: he made a speech from the stage that night, and said that our performance was the best thing he had seen since the Irish Players".

Right - Poet and playwright Joe Corrie - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In 1931 Currie started his own JC West End Players in a repertory season. Currie continued his own entertainments company, now adding Sunshine Follies headed by Bert Denver; and its revues were broadcast by the BBC in the mid-1930s.

A June 1937 advertisement for Jimmy Currie's Summertime Show in the Pavilion Theatre, Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Sir Harry Lauder was centre stage in 1936. Visiting companies in the 1920s and 30s included Harry Gordon, Tommy Lorne, Dave Willis, Jack Radcliffe, The Troy Sisters and others.

Left - A June 1937 advertisement for Jimmy Currie's Summertime Show in the Pavilion Theatre, Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

A programme cover for the Pavilion Theatre, Perth Circa 1930 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The council purchased the Pavilion from Currie in 1936 and leased it back to him on a three-year lease. This freed funds for Currie's next steps. To designs of his architect John S Dow the Pavilion had alterations and additions paid by Currie - firstly in 1937 to add Talkies to the bill of fare, but live production held sway; and in 1938 the floor was levelled so that it could be used as a dance hall. Revues were twice nightly shows and on Fridays Currie introduced dancing from 11 pm to 3am. In 1938 the Theatre included Bernard Frutin's Summer Show Company.

Right - A programme cover for the Pavilion Theatre, Perth Circa 1930 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

An August 1939 advertisement for the Perth Pavilion Super Summer Show presented by Bernard Frutin - Courtesy Graeme Smith.When Jimmy Currie lost Dundee's Broadway Theatre in January 1939 he also lost renewal of his Pavilion Theatre lease. In April 1939 the council leased the pavilion for three years to Bernard Frutin whose circuit of theatres and cinemas was headquartered in Glasgow's Metropole Theatre.

Frutin continued shows – now including George Clarkson's Co-optimists - dancing, drama festivals, and sporting events.

Left - An August 1939 advertisement for the Perth Pavilion Super Summer Show presented by Bernard Frutin - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

On his death in 1942 the lease was awarded to John Hall of the Queen's Theatre, Glasgow Cross. His revues and visiting companies were now joined by performances of Army and Navy units. Under him Garrison Nights were usually Sundays or Mondays. Variety was during the week and dancing on Saturday evenings. In the late 1940s the Pavilion Theatre continued to be used for dances and drama festivals, latterly becoming a catering establishment. It was abandoned in the 1950s and demolished around 1973.

The above article on the Pavilion Theatres, Perth was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Perth Playhouse, 6 Murray Street Perth

The Playhouse Theatre, Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - The Playhouse Theatre, Perth - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Designed by Alexander Cattenach Jnr., in the Art Deco style for the Caledonian Circuit the super-sized Playhouse opened at the end of 1933 as a cinema with stage facilities and dressing rooms. It sat 1,700 patrons in its spacious auditorium. In addition to film it was also used for meetings.

The Perth Playhouse Theatre's Interior before its multi-screen subdivison - Courtesy Graeme Smith.It held vocal and instrumental concerts on Sunday afternoons during WW2 and as a Garrison Theatre had variety and concerts on Sunday evenings. In 1961 additional dressing rooms were constructed to house the Andy Stewart Show which was touring Scotland, with performances on three days in November at the Playhouse, in conjunction with his three-year contract with Moss Empires which had opened in the Empire Theatre, Glasgow.

Right - The Perth Playhouse Theatre's Interior before its multi-screen subdivison - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In 2013 it was bought by the G1 Group of Glasgow who operate it as part of the IMAX circuit, with 7 screens. More about the Playhouse and its interior can be seen in the Scottish Cinemas website here.

The above article on the Perth Playhouse was kindly written for this site by Graeme Smith in November 2017.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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