Queen's Theatre, Adelaide

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Queen's Theatre, Playhouse Lane

The Queen's Theatre is a building of historic importance in Playhouse Lane, Adelaide, South Australia. It is the oldest intact theatre in mainland Australia, but was predated by Theatre Royal in Hobart, Tasmania.[1] It was not the first theatre in Adelaide however, that being Samson Cameron's short-lived Royal Victoria Theatre on North Terrace which opened on 23 November 1839.[2]

History[edit]

By the early 1800s, live performance was increasing in popularity in Australia, although no entertainment venues existed to house performances. In the 1830s, both Sydney and Hobart received two theatres, the first in the Australian colonies.[1]

Only four years following settlement of South Australia in 1836, attempts to build a substantial theatre in an increasingly prosperous Adelaide were made, with a declaration by the South Australian Register stating "...Mr Solomon, of Currie Street, is about to make an important addition to the quarter of Gilles Arcade, by the erection of a spacious and handsome edifice which he ends to fit up as a theatre".[1] It was built for Emanuel Solomon (1800–1873) and his Sydney-based brother Vaiben Solomon (1802–1860)[3] in 1840[4] for £3000[5] with seating for over 1000 people[6]. The project had dire predictions of failure from the press[7] and opened with Othello on 11 January 1841,[8] the manager John Lazar in the title role, to "mixed reviews".[9] The Southern Australian's prognostications proved correct. Public appetite for entertainment had waned with the Depression brought on by Governor Grey's fiscally responsible regime following the prosperity of Governor Gawler's rule, when huge sums were invested in public infrastructure. After months of losing money, Lazar dismissed his company and converted the seating to something more appropriate to public meetings,[10] and some use was made of the theatre for public meetings and lectures, but did not renew his lease.

Solomon offered the government use of the theatre gratis if they would prohibit the building of further taverns in the vicinity (his Shakspere Tavern,[11] subsequently named Temple Tavern, was adjacent). This was rejected, but in 1843 the government signed a contract with Solomon for three years' rental at £200 per annum for use as Resident Magistrates Court, Supreme Court and offices for the Registrar General, the Advocate General, the Assistant Crown Solicitor and Assistant to the Bench of Magistrates.[12]

Between 1846 and 1847 Solomon, whose nephew Judah Moss Solomon (1818–1880) was an occasional partner, attempted to sell the theatre and tavern by lottery, but it was never fully subscribed so he refunded to the punters their stakes.

It reopened, re-using the name Royal Victoria Theatre, under the management of John Lazar and George Coppin, on 23 December 1850.[13]

In 1861 it closed for refurbishment and substantial remodelling, and reopened in July with A. J. Solomon the new lessee and Robert MacGowan the stage manager[14] of what was Adelaide's only theatre until the opening of the Theatre Royal at 28 Hindley Street on 13 April 1868,[15] which spelled the demise of the "Victoria".

It then became successively a dance hall designated the "Prado",[16] the headquarters for the City Mission,[17] a horse market[18] and other commercial uses, and finally a car park.[19]

Recent development[edit]

The partially restored interior, now used as a performance space, during a History Month tour in 2014

The building was purchased by the South Australian Asset Management Corporation and transferred to Heritage SA in the 1980s. Excavation revealed historically significant remains and numerous artefacts.

The Queen's Theatre was reopened as a performance venue at the 1996 Adelaide Festival of Arts, with a performance of The Magic Flute by Opera Australia. Following essential refurbishments, it was reopened for the launch of the 1998 Festival of Arts by Robyn Archer.[20]

The theatre is now used as a performance space and function venue, but with stringent conditions intended to preserve as far as possible, the old character of the building.[21]. The Queen’s Theatre is now managed by GWB McFarlane Theatres.[22].

New Queen's Theatre[edit]

A new theatre was built in 1846 for George Coppin on nearby land on Light Square belonging to Solomon and managed by John Lazar, architect one Thomas Price.[23] The hall held 700 and had the distinction of prohibiting smoking in the boxes.[24] In January 1850, the New Queen's Theatre was described by the South Australian Register as "a hotbed of demoralization" and that "no man can sit out a performance without being disgusted ; no lady can enter the impure precincts without contamination".[25] This article was the occasion of a successful libel case against editor John Stephens in March 1850.[26] The Adelaide Garrick Club[27] may have been the last company to mount plays there, with productions of three Thomas Morton comedies, the last in September 1850. There is no newspaper reference to this theatre after November 1850.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Marsden, Susan; Stark, Paul; Sumerling, Patricia (1989). Heritage of the City of Adelaide: an illustrated guide. Corporation of the City of Adelaide and the National Library of Australia. ISBN 0-909866-30-9.
  2. ^ "Royal Victoria Theatre". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 16 November 1839. p. 3. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  3. ^ Two of Vaiben's brothers lived in Adelaide: Emanuel and Isaac. The famous Vaiben Louis Solomon and Judah Moss Solomon were of the following generation.
  4. ^ "Gilles Arcade". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 14 March 1840. p. 4. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Adelaidenow.com.au | Subscribe to The Advertiser for exclusive stories". www.adelaidenow.com.au. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
  6. ^ "Our Notable Pioneers". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 7 November 1936. p. 4 Section: Magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  7. ^ "The Queen's Theatre". Southern Australian. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1840. p. 3. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  8. ^ "The Queen's Theatre". The Australian. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 28 January 1841. p. 2. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  9. ^ "The Queen's Theatre". Adelaide Chronicle And South Australian Literary Record. II, (LVIII). South Australia. 13 January 1841. p. 3. Retrieved 18 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Theatricals in Adelaide". Southern Australian. IV, (237). South Australia. 27 August 1841. p. 2. Retrieved 18 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Advertising". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 7 February 1849. p. 2. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  12. ^ "South Australia". The Australian. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 24 July 1843. p. 3. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  13. ^ "The Theatre". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 24 December 1850. p. 3. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Victoria Theatre". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 15 July 1861. p. 3. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  15. ^ "Old-Time Theatres". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 6 January 1921. p. 5. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  16. ^ "The Dancing Saloons and Night-Houses". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 28 June 1870. p. 6. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  17. ^ "The City Mission". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 15 August 1872. p. 4. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  18. ^ "Early Experiences on South Australia". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 27 March 1901. p. 7. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Gilles Arcade". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 14 July 1928. p. 13. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  20. ^ Queens Theatre in Adelaide, SA
  21. ^ Queen's Theatre – Adelaide South Australia
  22. ^ GWB McFarlane Theatres Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  23. ^ "Our Colonial Review". Adelaide Observer. IV, (176). South Australia. 7 November 1846. p. 4. Retrieved 10 February 2018 – via National Library of Australia. Price, active 1845–50, had offices in Hindley Street
  24. ^ "Advertising". The South Australian. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 23 October 1846. p. 2. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  25. ^ "A Licentious Stage". South Australian Register. 16 January 1850.
  26. ^ "Law and Police Courts : Lazar vs Stephens". Adelaide Observer. 9 March 1850.
  27. ^ "Local Intelligence". South Australian Register. XIV, (1068). South Australia. 14 March 1850. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2017 – via National Library of Australia.

Bibliography[edit]

Coordinates: 34°55′32″S 138°35′44″E / 34.925418°S 138.595549°E / -34.925418; 138.595549