The elegant two storey building in Victoria Road was designed by architect James Fairley and opened in 1876 as the Victoria Hall. For around 25 years it was a popular venue for meetings, lectures, concerts and social gatherings. For the new owners major alterations had to be made to convert it into a Theatre in 1903, designed by architect William Alexander, who was the Burgh Architect and the architect of Perth Theatre, it reopened its doors as the Gaiety Theatre.
The Victoria previously had an Upper Hall, and a Lower Hall; now the Upper Hall was gutted and a circle and gallery formed, looking down to the stage and stalls in one auditorium. There were six dressing rooms, a green room, and orchestra room. Novel to Dundee was the installation of electric floodlights for the stage, inspired by its first manager the creative James Creighton.
Right - A Sketch of the auditorium of the Gaiety Theatre, Dundee from a 1903 programme - Courtesy Graeme Smith.
The newly formed Dundee Gaiety Theatre Company Ltd started as part of a circuit of music halls within the sphere of Thomas Colquhoun and Bernard Armstrong, both of Glasgow, involving the Queen's, Glasgow, the Tivoli, Glasgow, the Empire, Greenock, and Aberdeen`s Alhambra Music Hall which was a converted church in Market Street there, which William McFarland had run before the Livermore Brothers took it over and now the turn of the Dundee Gaiety company. That Alhambra became a zoo in 1907.
On opening night in April 1903 the newspapers reported of the Gaiety:- Both houses were crowded to overflowing, thousands having to be turned away. Later the city`s Evening Telegraph wrote:- The decoration of Dundee`s new theatre has now been completed, and London cannot boast of a more beautiful, comfortable and better equipped theatre of varieties. I paid a visit to the Gaiety last night and realised that this new house of entertainment is attracting an audience of the Kinnaird Hall entertainment-going class.
The Gaiety provided variety, plays and pantomime, and eventually was leased to Alfred Moul`s United County Theatres Ltd. It held 1,600 people and held dramatic, music and dancing licences. Around 1910 it added cine-variety, which involved the removal of the stage boxes, and changed its name to the Victoria Theatre. It continued staging variety and major revues, until 1935 when it became a fulltime cinema.
Left - A Programme Cover for the Victoria Theatre, Dundee in 1928 - Courtesy Colin Calder.
Theatre journalist and historian Gordon Irving records that the Victoria was the first full time cinema in Dundee.
The building was demolished in 1989.
The above information on the Gaiety Theatre, Dundee was written for this site by Graeme Smith in February 2013.
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