Her Majesty’s Theatre

Her Majesty's Theatre

This week, with the weather having been so poor, it seemed the perfect time to turn attention to one indoor attractions in Sydney. Sydney has a wonderful history of theatre and entertainments, and once Her Majesty’s Theatre, pictured in the postcard above, was a central part of this.

Over the course of European history, Sydney has actually been home to not one, but three theatres by the name of ‘Her Majesty’s’. The first of these was proposed in 1882, but construction on the actual building, which stood on the corner of Market and Pitt Streets, did not begin until 1884. At the time of opening, in 1887, it was the largest and best venue for shows in the entirety of the city, with a grand interior including a dome and chandelier. The theatre was also the first to actually conform to regulations put in place following the NSW Commission on Theatres. The main result of this was extensive fire safety and prevention measures, which included an asbestos drop curtain! Yet in 1902, just 15 years after opening, a fire broke out during a production of Ben Hur. The asbestos safety curtain did not operate properly, and the interior of the theatre was completely destroyed.

The theatre reopened in 1903 with an new Edwardian interior, though the Pitt Street side retained the original facade. The newly reopened theatre had the latest in technology and once again fire precautions were upgraded. This was not to be the final incarnation of Her Majesty’s Theatre though, and in 1933, ostensibly due to pressures from council rates and taxes, the theatre closed. There was a third theatre which was o be known as Her Majesty’s Theatre, which evolved from an existing theatre – The Empire. Yet this theatre did not open as ‘Her Majesty’s Theatre’ until 1960, well after the original theatre had closed.

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