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The Citizens' Theatre, 121 Main Street, Gorbals, Glasgow

Formerly - Her Majesty's Theatre - The Royal Princess's Theatre

Introduction - The Opening of the Theatre - The Citizen's Theatre Company - Recent History

Glasgow Index

A Google StreetView Image of the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow - Click to Interact

A Thumbnail image of the Princess's Theatre, Glasgow in 1934 - Click to see the original image.One of the oldest Theatres in Glasgow, whose auditorium and stage, with Victorian mechanisms, survives today as the Citizens` Theatre (See below), originally opened on Saturday the 28th of December 1878 in the thriving Gorbals, as Her Majesty`s Theatre, but changed the following year to The Royal Princess's Theatre, (the "Royal" was to counter the publicity of the redesigned Theatre Royal in Hope Street reappearing in 1879.) See a report on the Theatre's opening from the ERA below.

Right - A Thumbnail image of the Princess's Theatre, Glasgow in 1934 - Click to see the original image.

The Theatre's owner and builder was John Morrison (of Morrison & Mason) and it was designed by the firm of architects Campbell Douglas & Sellars. (Archibald Campbell Douglas, with architect partner James Sellars, had restyled the Scotia Variety Theatre in Stockwell Street for the Baylis family a few years earlier)...

The Auditorium of the Citizens' Theatre - Courtesy The Citizens' Theatre

Above - The Auditorium of the Citizens' Theatre today - Courtesy The Citizens' Theatre

...Not a large theatre it accommodated around 1,500 people with two semi-circular balconies (only one is used today) and was operated by Harcourt Beryl, succeeded in time by his assistant Richard Waldon. Harry McKelvie was one of Waldon`s page boys and worked his way up to the top, falling heir to the successful Richard Waldon tradition. It was highly successful in staging musical comedy, variety, pantomime and Shakespearean plays. Its classical portico was shared with the Palace Theatre next door, and an evening view of it in 1934 can be seen in the excellent Glasgow Story website here.

A Theatre Token for the Princess's Theatre, Glasgow - Courtesy Mark McBride A Theatre Token for the Princess's Theatre, Glasgow - Courtesy Mark McBride

 

Above - A Theatre Token for the Princess's Theatre, Glasgow - Courtesy Mark McBride who found it with a Metal Detector in 2015 - The Token was for the Gallery of the Princess's Theatre Glasgow, priced 6d, and also has the partly obscured word Rich...' on one side which could be referring to its one time Manager Richard Waldon - If you have any more information on the Token please Contact me.

McKelvie built upon the Princess`s pantomime traditions, where British records were set, and where all the titles contained 13 letters, including The Tintock Cup made famous in the 1950s under the new banner of the Citizens Theatre.

During World War 2 it became the home of the Citizens repertory started by Tom Honeyman, James Bridie and others. For more information on the Citizen's Theatre Company see below.

The above text was written and kindly sent in for inclusion on the site by Graeme Smith, whose book 'THE THEATRE ROYAL: Entertaining a Nation', is detailed here.

The Opening of Her Majesty's Theatre and Opera House

From the ERA, 5th of January 1879

This magnificent Theatre, which has been in the course of erection during the past seven months, was opened to the public on Saturday evening, 28th December, 1878, under the management of Mr J. F. M'Fadyen. The event is one of more than ordinary importance in the theatrical annals of Glasgow, inasmuch as the new house is on the south side of the river, where, hitherto, no place of dramatic entertainment has ever existed. Within the last few years several schemes for the erection of a south-side Theatre have been proposed, and in one instance endeavours were made to promote a joint-stock company with that object in view. Plans were even prepared, and a prospectus issued pointing to the purchase of an eligible site in Carlton-place; but there the matter ended, and our fellow citizens "across the water" were yet without a dramatic retreat of their own. That state of affairs has now, however, been altered by the enterprise of Mr John Morrison, the Proprietor and builder of "Her Majesty's," which for elegance, comfort, and completeness is unsurpassed in Scotland.

The original Citizens' Theatre frontage, and the Palace Theatre which was next door - From the book 'Glasgow since 1900' Archive publications.The building, which also comprises a commodious suite of assembly halls, is situated in Main-street, Gorbals, one of the most populous districts of the city. The frontage is in the Doric style, with a row of six fluted columns supporting an ornamental entablature, which is surmounted by six large figures. At the two extremities are capital statues of Shakespeare and Burns, the figures between them representing Tragedy, Comedy, Music, and Burlesque. The general effect of the façade is at once graceful and imposing.

Right - The original Her Majesty's Theatre frontage, shown here after it had been renamed the Citizen's Theatre in 1945. The Palace Theatre which was situated next door, can also be seen in the photograph.

The principal entrance from Main-street is 12 feet wide, and leads first of all into a vestibule 30 feet by 25 feet, from which access is gained to stalls and dress-circle, the former being fitted up with luxurious chairs in crimson velvet. The circle is also upholstered in the same rich material. A separate door, 11 feet wide, in Hutherglen-road, leads to pit and gallery, the latter being reached by a substantial stair, and being seated for 750 persons. The pit is seated for the same number, and the house can accommodate in all 2,500 persons.

The Auditorium of the Citizens' Theatre - Courtesy The Citizens' Theatre

Above - The Auditorium of the Citizens' Theatre today - Courtesy The Citizens' Theatre

The circle and gallery above are both constructed in horseshoe shape, and rise gently to wards the rear. There is a corresponding incline from the stalls to the back of the pit, and a clear view of the stage can thus be had from all parts of the house. From the stage to the back of the pit the distance is 60 feet, with a width of 55 feet, while the measurement from footlights to middle of circle is 30 feet.

The roof is covered to the height of eight feet with ornamental ribs rising to the circular ceiling in the centre, from which depends a large sunlight, having, a ventilator shaft above, communicating with the various air openings throughout the structure. Smaller sunlights are introduced in other parts of the house, and serve the double purpose of lighting and ventilating. The decorations, which are of the most chaste and elegant description, were designed by and executed under the personal supervision of our clever local artist, Mr Joseph Sharpe, on whom they reflect a world of credit. The prevailing tints are maize, pink, and green, picked out with gold. The embellishment of the balcony consists of alternate scrolled panels, with puffings of crimson satin, and ornamental trusses bearing miniature caryatides, which support the coping.

All the doors in the building are made to open outwards, and special modes of egress have been provided in case of emergency, while hydrants are placed at convenient stations throughout the building ready for immediate use. All parts of the house are provided with well-ventilated lavatories, &c., stalls and circle having additional accommodation in the shape of cloak and retiring rooms for both ladies and gentlemen. .Altogether, the arrangements for the comfort of the audience are thoroughly satisfactory and complete in every respect.

The proscenium opening is 27 feet wide, and on each side are two fluted pilasters, surmounted by emblematical figures, which, as well as those on the façade, are the work of Mr Young, Dumbarton-road. Behind the curtain the stage has a depth of 42 feet, with a width equal to that of the auditorium, while the depth of the cellar is 28 feet, The usual galleries are run along the side walls at a height of 25 feet above the stage, and on this level also, but at the very back of the stage, is a spacious painting room. The stage itself is fitted up with all the most modern machinery and appliances that money could procure. The comfort of the artists, too, has received the most careful attention. The dressing-rooms, of which there are a great many, have each a fire-place and a plentiful supply of water. There is also a green-room, band-room, large supers-room, property-room, and wardrobe, all of which, as well as the dressing-rooms, are in the rear of the stage, while on either side are a scene dock and carpenter's shop. The lime-light tanks - the finest in Scotland - and gas-meter are in a shed outside the main building so that, should any accident occur, the audience will be beyond danger. No cost has been spared in the construction of the Theatre, the end in view being completeness in all departments, and that end has certainly been attained. The architect is Sir George Douglas West, George-street [see note], Mr Morrison (Proprietor) himself being the builder. The woodwork was executed by Mr James Morrison, the gas-fitting and ventilating by Messrs D. and G. Graham, the machinery of the stage by Mr Farrel (resident carpenter) and assistants, the upholstering by Messrs F. and T. Smith, Union-street, and the painting by Mr Edgar. The splendid act-drop is the work of Mr John Connor, and when disclosed excited great admiration. It may be added that the walls of the building and also the staircases are constructed of stone.

The Pantomime of Ali Brba; or the Forty Thieves, was the opening attraction. Previous, however, to the commencement of the performance the National Anthem was sung by the entire strength of the company. As might have been expected, the house was crowded in all parts.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 5th of January 1879.

NB. The ERA article shown above suggests that the architect of the Theatre was Sir George Douglas West but this is thought to be an error. Archibald Campbell Douglas, who had his own architectural firm in Glasgow, joined with James Sellars to form Campbell Douglas & Sellars, and it is this architectural firm that is thought to be responsible for the Theatre.

The Citizen's Theatre Company

The original Citizens' Theatre frontage, and the Palace Theatre which was next door - From the book 'Glasgow since 1900' Archive publications.

Above - The original Citizens' Theatre frontage, and the Palace Theatre which was next door

A Citizens' Theatre Programme for 'The House of Regrets' by Peter Ustinov at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1942, before the Royal Princess's Theatre was actually renamed The Citizens' Theatre.In 1943 the Citizen's Repertory Company opened a season at the Royal Princess's Theatre, and a programme for that season has the following details of their aims at the time:- 'The Citizens' Theatre is now under way, thanks to the untiring efforts of our many friends who have assisted us with donations, advice, and publicity, but above all by joining our Theatre Society and by coming regularly to our productions. But if this great effort is to be successful, if this non-profitmaking movement to make Glasgow a genuine drama Centre, is to succeed, we require more money, more people on our Membership roll, more criticism, more cooperation from all classes and creeds, and more loyalty and devotion.

Right - A Citizens' Theatre Programme for 'The House of Regrets' by Peter Ustinov at the Royal Princess's Theatre in 1942, before the Royal Princess's Theatre was actually renamed The Citizens' Theatre.

This is not our Theatre. It is YOUR Theatre. We are merely its temporary Trustees. We are doing our best for you, without payment or reward of any kind. Are You in turn doing your best for Us?

"To be, or not to be: that is the question." The answer to that question lies with Glasgow's Citizens. London and the other cities are watching our fight. With your regular help and loyalty we can win this battle. Get the regular theatre habit! Come often to the Citizens' Theatre. It is YOUR Theatre. Paul Vincent Carroll.'

The above text in quotes is from the November 15th 1943 Citizens' Theatre Programme for 'Shadow & Substance' by Paul Vincent Caroll.

Recent History of the Citizens' Theatre

The Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow during the run of 'Snow White' in 2003 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow during the run of 'Snow White' in 2003 - Photo M.L

Three Programmes for the Citizens' Theatre in 1943, 1944, and 1945.On the 11th of September 1945, and after several years hosting the Citizen's Theatre Company, the Royal Princess's Theatre reopened as the Citizens' Theatre, a name it retains to this day.

The interior of the main Theatre is still that of the earlier Royal Princess's, although only one of the circles is used in the main space today, but the Facade is completely different and unless you knew the Theatre's history you would never guess how old the building really is from the outside.

Right - Three Programmes for the Citizens' Theatre in 1943, 1944, and 1945.

A Colour programme from 1947 can be seen at the excellent Glasgow Story website here

The Theatre now consists of three theatrical spaces, the Main Theatre which seats 459, the Circle Studio which seats 90 and the Stalls Studio which seats 45. An announcement in February 2013 that the Citizen's Theatre was to have a major refurbishment was most welcome. There is a report on the announcement in the Herald Scotland here, and a most informative conservation report on the Theatre and its history here.

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

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

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.