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Her Majesty's Theatre, Seagate, Dundee

Later - The Majestic Cinema / Capitol Cinema / ABC cinema

About the Theatre - Robert Arthur on 'The Seasons Past and Future at Dundee and Aberdeen'

Dundee Theatres

A Postcard depicting Her Majesty`s Theatre, Dundee - Courtesy Graeme Smith

Above - A Postcard depicting Her Majesty`s Theatre, Dundee - Courtesy Graeme Smith

 

Her Majesty`s Theatre for drama, musicals, opera and pantomime opened in the Seagate in October 1885. Its lessee was the ubiquitous William McFarland of the Theatre Royal, which then closed as the main drama theatre of the city. However McFarland continued the old building for a few years as McFarland’s Varieties - Theatre Royal, staging his popular variety programmes.

An 1896 Programme Cover for Her Majesty`s Theatre, Dundee - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The Theatre was designed by architect William Alexander, who was also Burgh Architect, and it occupied the shell of a large building dating from the start of the century. It held 1,650 people in comfort. It had two serpentine shaped galleries above the stalls, and ten boxes. The foyer had marble staircases, and its fireplace was in carved oak with tiles of scenes from the works of Sir Walter Scott.

Right - An 1896 Programme Cover for Her Majesty`s Theatre, Dundee - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The act drop was a view of Loch Katrine – The Silver Strand - painted by William Glover of Glasgow. The new orchestra was led by Edgar Ward from the Falconcliffe Concerts, Douglas, Isle of Man.

As part of the recitation from the stage on opening night were these lines:–

Now all who know our worthy friend McFarland,
Will say he well deserves the garland
Of praise I here would weave sincerely.
Mac`s one who loves the public dearly,
He`ll cater for sixpences, florins, crowns
In this fair house, but not despise the “browns”
The “gods” await him at the Royal.

The owner, Dundee Theatre & Opera House Co Ltd, was formed in 1883 to create a new theatre. Its three principal founding directors included its chairman, James Keiller, head of the marmalade and preserves company; Henry McGrady, a future Lord Provost, whose mansion would be destroyed by fire in 1913, attributed to suffragettes. And James G Orchar, inventor and engineer, whose Orchar Collection of Art is today of national significance. He was a promoter of the Albert Institute, and the main driving force behind the creation of Dundee Art Gallery.

 

The Auditorium and stage of Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - Courtesy Graeme Smith

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - Courtesy Graeme Smith

 

A Cartoon of Robert Arthur - Courtesy Graeme Smith.McFarland made it the annual home of the Dundee Fine Art Exhibition Converzatione, usually with twelve tableaux “with all the essential accessories of proscenium, stage fittings, footlights and limelights. The tableaux were presented to the accompaniment of appropriate music, and the usual concert of vocal and instrumental music. There were also lecturettes on the pictures. Mr McFarland placed all the appliances of the paint room of Her Majesty`s at the artists disposal.”

Robert Arthur Theatres Co Ltd business statement - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.Upon McFarland`s retiral in 1891, as a man now of some wealth, Her Majesty`s was leased to Robert Arthur, (shown left) who refurnished the Theatre and announced that his scenic artist would be Mr Mapleson.

Left - A Cartoon of Robert Arthur - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The new act drop depicted the Play Scene from Hamlet and was painted by Mr Ravenscroft of his Wolverhampton Theatre. Arthur announced that “The orchestra will appear every night in evening dress, and all the attendants will be attired in livery.”

Right - Robert Arthur Theatres Co Ltd business statement - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Robert Arthur came from Glasgow where his father`s printing company had many customers in the world of Theatres, waxworks, dioramas and performance. For a time young Arthur owned and managed the illustrated humorous Chiel, a weekly Scottish “Punch” which ran for eight years. In 1881 he became a manager for Charles Bernard`s Gaiety Theatre, Glasgow and then a touring manager for others, including visits to Aberdeen and the Theatre Royal, Dundee. He became a manager then partner in JW Turner`s English Opera Company which made its debut in the Grand Theatre, Nottingham; and became lessee of the Theatre Royal, Wolverhampton in 1887 before adding Her Majesty`s Theatre, Dundee.

 

The Preface to the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Above - The Preface to the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

His series of Robert Arthur Pantomimes, staged in his own venues and in others, equalled the quality of those of Howard & Wyndham Ltd. In 1895 he commenced his lease of the Theatre Royal, Newcastle where he completely rebuilt within six months the stage and auditorium to his own ideas, using Frank Matcham, and leaving only the four exterior walls and classical frontage as they were.

A wonderful photograph of one of Manager Eade Montefiore's rooms at Her Majesty`s Theatre Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Above - A wonderful photograph of one of Manager Eade Montefiore's rooms at Her Majesty`s Theatre Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

A photograph of Manager Eade Montefiore in one of his rooms at Her Majesty`s Theatre Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Above - A photograph of Manager Eade Montefiore in one of his rooms at Her Majesty`s Theatre Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

In 1897, when he lived at The Limes, Broughty Ferry, he floated the Robert Arthur Theatres Co Ltd on the Stock Exchanges, his fellow directors being Beerbohm Tree, actor and impresario, Edward Compton, comedy actor and theatre manager, and Alexander M Ogston, Aberdeen soap-maker, who was a founder director of the Aberdeen Opera House Co Ltd owners of that city`s Her Majesty`s Theatre leased to Robert Arthur in 1891 (and later to be renamed the Tivoli Theatre.)

Profits of Arthur theatres were substantial in the early years but started to shrink – to losses in 1909 - due to the costs of mortgages used in the (almost total) rebuilding of the Theatre Royal, Newcastle after a fire in 1899 which was not covered by insurance, and the buying of other theatres. His company also operated five theatres in London – the Court, Camden and Fulham theatres, the Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill - and the sumptuous Kennington Theatre, London which was built in 1899 as a birthday present for his wife.

By 1902 the company repealed the right given to Robert Arthur of being Managing Director for 10 years. At the same time his power over “the substantial direction of theatrical arrangements” was taken away; as was his right to have at least 2 months vacation each year.

Robert Arthur Theatres Ltd had to be reconstructed when it ran out of cash due to the large expenditure on the building of the new and grand His Majesty`s Theatre, Aberdeen, in Rosemount, designed by Frank Matcham - and the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool and an expensive pantomime season in 1911. From 1912 onwards Robert Arthur Theatres Ltd became part of the Howard & Wyndham stable, chaired by Michael Simons of Glasgow, who had been so invited to take over by the Arthur company shareholders.

Robert Arthur himself was declared bankrupt for debts in the theatre business, losses from Stock Exchange trading and gambling in Monte Carlo. He had personal liabilities of some £50,000 and assets of £400. Eventually he made a return to business and in the 1920s was manager of Croydon Grand Theatre, London.

A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - Click to Interact.The Dundee Theatre continued its fare of plays, musicals, opera, revues and pantomimes until 1919 when it was sold to become a picture house, latterly adopting the name Majestic. It was substantially rebuilt around 1930 and destroyed during the war. Its site later housed a major Capitol / ABC cinema from 1956, an image of which, and more information, can be seen here. The ABC later became a Yates Bar but was closed in 2012 and is today called Lloyd's Bar.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the site of the former Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - Click to Interact.

More about Robert Arthur, and of Howard & Wyndham Ltd., is in The Theatre Royal: Entertaining a Nation by Graeme Smith, published in 2008.

The above information on Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee was written for this site by Graeme Smith in February 2013.

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

 

Robert Arthur on 'The Seasons Past and Future at Dundee and Aberdeen'

From the Arthurian Annual of 1904

The Seasons Past and Future at Dundee and Aberdeen -  From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill. The season of 1903 in Dundee and Aberdeen stands out as memorable. Attractions for these cities have always been difficult to negotiate, and it is only his happy combination of Theatres that allows Mr Robert Arthur (Shown Below Left) to send the excellent companies that now weekly appear. It must always be remembered that the cities of Aberdeen and Dundee are the farthest north in the theatrical kingdom, and that, whatever star or company comes up, such will have to go back, and therefore, the extra expense of the heavy railway journeys often forbid a visit, through our cities being out of a direct road, and leading only to themselves.

Robert ArthurIt is, too, often a cause of Complaint amongst playgoers that Dundee and Aberdeen do not have absolutely the same companies that visit Edinburgh and Glasgow. In a great many cases we do have such, but it seems to be forgotten that, apart from the great difference in population or the less capacities of the Theatres, the prices of admission are not even on the same level as those reigning in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it is not to be expected that the great artist or astute manager touring successful pieces will visit towns unless it can be thoroughly seen that there is money in it, and until Aberdeen and Dundee, through their management, and more especially through the frank, ungrudging support of audiences, come right up to the same plane as the sister cities of Scotland, equality in the fare in every case cannot reasonably be expected.

 

The Auditorium and Stage at Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill. Musical comedy is the fashion. Nothing else seems to please or attract so many. Mr Arthur, with prescience of popular taste, has given over twenty weeks during the past year to music.

A return visit of Mr George Edwardes Company, THE TOREADOR, was an event; while for first visits we had THE SILVER SLIPPER., FLORODORA, A COUNTRY GIRL, THE GIRL FROM KAY'S, THREE LITTLE MAIDS, THE MEDAL AND THE MAID; while of old musical favourities we had the D'oyly Carte Opera Company, LA POUPEE, THE BELLE OF NEW YORK, A SHOP GIRL, and SAN TOY. We have had THE ROSE OF THE RIVIERA, THE CASINO GIRL, and of Grand Opera Mr J. W. Turner' Company; while a very successful Pantomime ran seven weeks between Aberdeen and Dundee.

Right - The Auditorium and Stage at Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Of the "stars" that visited Dundee, Mr Wilson Barrett stands out conspicuous, his week being undoubtedly one of the most successful, in every way, in the history of the Theatre.

Mr Weedon Grossmith and Miss Fortescue, Miss Olga Nethersole and Mr F. R. Benson had their own particular followings for the types of play that have made them famous. The weeks have been interspersed with drama of a cosmopolitan type, which appealed with more or less success to pit and gallery audiences; while for the second consecutive summer two good companies were gathered together by Mr Robert Arthur, under the title of "The Arthurian Company of Players."

 

The The Arthurian Company of Players in 1903 - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Above - The The Arthurian Company of Players in 1903 - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

The spring season at Dundee and Aberdeen is likely to be equally memorable, if only for the visit of the charming actress Ellen Terry. The last week of January and the first week of February will see Miss Terry appearing in these cities with a repertoire in which her Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and her Nance Oldfield will be attractions of the very first water.

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Above - Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

The Auditorium of Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill. The Musical plays calling for particular note are the first visit of A CHINESE HONEYMOON; the first visit of Mr George Edwardes and Mr Charles Frohman's fine Company in THE SCHOOL GIRL; while Mr Levilly, pioneer of LA POUPEE, introduces the new opera AMORELLE, in which Miss Stella Gastelle and Mr Eric Thorne are retained to appear.

Comedies are to be well served by a return visit of CHARLEY'S AUNT, first visits of ARE YOU A MASON? THE MARRIAGE OF KITTY, and THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON.

Right - The Auditorium of Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee - From the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

Dramas will find expression in return visits of SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE SILVER KING, and THE ETERNAL CITY; while Mr Tree's Repertoire Company from His Majesty's Theatre will present his superb London production of Stephen Phillip's great work HEROD, together with sumptuous stagings of RICHARD THE SECOND and TWELFTH NIGHT.

For Old Comedy we are to have a visit from that favourite actor Edward Compton, and there is little doubt but that the Theatres will be thronged to witness DAVY GARRICK and the other perennial plays of this popular "star." The Arthurian Company of Players will for the third successive season occupy the stages of both Theatres for the summer months in popular drama, and effort is being made to bring together a representative body of rising actors and actresses whose ambitions and endeavours for high and artistic achievements promise interesting performances.

The above text and its accompanying images are from the Arthurian Annual of 1904 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.

 

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