WELCOME TO MY ROYAL THEATRE!

Hobart's Theatre Royal - destined for destruction in the 1950s, but saved!

Hobart’s Theatre Royal – once destined for destruction, but now saved and flourishing.

I hope I never get over the excitement of seeing a play in an iconic venue, particularly when I’ve written the play myself.

While The 26-Storey Treehouse was playing in the Sydney Opera House in January, I loved strolling smugly past the tourists taking their selfies outside, flashing my backstage pass at the Stage Door and walking through to chat with the cast and crew, then heading out into the foyer to mingle with the audience. It was my theatre for the month.

Now the play is on tour, this week in the oldest theatre in Australia, and arguably the most beautiful.

Hobart’s Theatre Royal has been operating since 1835. It was built in what was then the rough end of town, surrounded by brothels and pubs (perhaps convenient for the post-show celebrations), abattoirs and factories.

Early performances featured cockfighting and boxing matches, interspersed with religious meetings.

By the 1940s it had fallen into dangerous disrepair and was threatened with demolition. A campaign to save it was lent support when Laurence Olivier and the Old Vic company performed there in 1948, and Olivier appealed for its restoration.

The ghost of an actor known as ‘Fred’ also featured in the successful campaign and the theatre was saved.

Laurence Olivier must have had some time on his hands between scenes. He drew this picture of Shakespeare in the old dressing rooms. Photo: James Lee

Laurence Olivier must have had some time on his hands between scenes. He drew this picture of Shakespeare in the old dressing rooms. Photo: James Lee

The Sydney Opera House is wonderful on the outside; inside its theatres are functional but not memorable. The Theatre Royal is the exact opposite. It’s not much to look at from the street.

A couple of Georgian columns, but otherwise nothing to see here, people.

A couple of Georgian columns, but otherwise nothing to see here, people.

Inside, it’s a different story. Just walking in raises the level of excitement, making people feel they’re in for something special.

Choose your seats, ladies and gentlemen.

Choose your seats, ladies and gentlemen.


For those performing in the theatre, there’s a wonderful sense of being part of a long cavalcade of stars who have trodden its boards. We’re proud to have it as ‘our’ theatre.
It's a sign of a good theatre when it appears smaller than it really is.

It’s a sign of a good theatre when it appears smaller than it really is. The Theatre Royal feels intimate, but seats nearly 700.


‘I love your show,’manager Don Hopkins tells me. I’m surprised for a moment, since the company hasn’t arrived yet and he hasn’t seen the play. ‘It’s almost sold out,’ he continues. Ah – the sort of show any manager would love!

Unfortunately I had to leave Hobart before the play began there, but my independent informant was there at opening night and assures me it was very well received.

Note the coat of arms by the royal box - two Tasmanian tigers.

Note the coat of arms by the royal box – two Tasmanian tigers. Note too the Latin motto; it translates as “fertility and faithfulness”, something those now extinct tigers unfortunately lacked.

AND FINALLY…The 26-Storey Treehouse will tour Australia until August 2015, playing in every capital city and many regional venues. For the full itinerary, click here.

The Theatre Royal runs tours for the public on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11am. Cost $12. To visit the theatre’s website, click here.

The writer was the guest of Tourism Tasmania.

4 Comments

Filed under Theatre, Travel-Australia

4 responses to “WELCOME TO MY ROYAL THEATRE!

  1. What a great looking theatre. I am pleased that I will be back in Brisbane when the play is showing.

  2. Keitha Granville

    Thank you for loving our theatre – we do too. She is a special and very grand old lady, but a working lady ! Nothing thrills us more than seeing performances to full houses. Good luck for the remainder of the tour.

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