The Queen’s Theatre

If you go down Bridge Street, Manchester and look at the Masonic Hall, you will see the spot where the Queen’s Theatre was; sadly in 1911 the theatre was demolished and the Masonic Hall built in its place. Here is a picture of the Masonic Hall which replaced it.

At the beginning it had lots of variety programmes including an interesting one in 1876 which according to the programme hosted ‘Frank Fayne’s Wild West Show’ starring The Kentucky Rifle Team and the Klu-Klux Klan. Definitely wouldn’t be allowed today!

In July 1878 there were two short plays performed in Greek, I wonder how the general public managed to understand them! In 1904 there was a play performed in which Italia Conte was the top of the bill, she then went on to run her own very  acting school which produced many very famous stars.

In one of the programmes there was an advert for ‘The Yiddish Operatic and Dramatic Company but sadly the programmes for this is not in the collection. In November 1907 there was a play which was written by Robert Louis Stevenson called ‘Deacon Brodie’.

As the owner of the Theatre, Richard Flanagan was famous for putting on Shakespearean plays, he also managed to make the most beautiful illustrated programmes, such as Cymbeline in 1903; Richard III in 1904; Henry the VIII in 1903; A Winter’s Tale in 1899; As You Like It in 1908 and Antony and Cleopatra in 1908.  These are a must to be seen. if you get the chance to come to the Manchester Central Library in Archives +. Where they can be requested to be seen.

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Whilst I was working on the programme collection for the Queens’s Theatre, I discovered an amazing collection of post cards of famous actors and actresses in their stage costumes for various Shakespearean plays.  These postcards were taken by a famous Manchester photographer, Percy Guttenberg. His studio was on Oxford Street and when he achieved his fame. Some of his postcards have been displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London. One of the  famous Shakespearean artistes that are on these postcards were Margaret Halstan whose real name was Clara Maud Hertz and Matheson Lang who was born in Canada but gained fame in England. Below you watch him in a play ‘The Great Well’ in 1923.

 

Other actors on these postcards were  Ryder Boys; John Wainwright and  Leonard Mudie , who later went to Hollywood and made several movies. Others were Arthur Grenville; Claire Greet; Eileen Kerin; Charles Bibby, Lawson Butt (he later became a film director) and many more.

These pictures are beautiful and unique and represent the theatre of a bygone age, a real must to see!

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Marilyn Shalks

10 Responses

  1. Marilyn, very interesting post yet again. I wonder if during your searches you have come across any of the works of Dion Boucicault. He was an Irish playwright. Prolific writer and producer of Victorian melodrama. Studied him at Uni. One play called The Poor of New York became , of Chicago, San Francisco and so on. Performed in Newcastle on Tyne and doubtless also as the Poor of Manchester. Can you advise me where l should look.

    • Yes , there are lots and lots of his plays done in the Manchester theatres in the 1800’s and early 1900’s . Its amazing how prolific he was. the plays that were written by him are listed in the theatre playbills at Manchester Central Library archives+ and there is so much written about all his plays and him on the internet. If you google him and his plays you will discover so much more than I know. there were some comments about some of the plays being of poor quality but not having studied them I’m not fit to comment but do enjoy your research and I would love to know how you go on.

  2. Dear Marilyn
    I have been researching the life of my great uncle William Macready who worked with Mr Richard Flanagan at the Queen’s Theatre on some of his Shakespearean revivals.
    He has stated that he was employed for the second time on Mr Flanagan’s 9th revival, Richard III, in 1904 but I have not found when he was employed for the first time.
    Subsequently he said that he was employed for the 9th time in 1911 for Mr Flanagan’s 16th revival, Winter’s Tale, and for the 12th time for the 1916 Winter’s Tale in Sept 1916 which was the 23rd revival. In this play William Macready’s wife, Edna Godfrey Turner, played Perdita.
    I have been unable to fill in all the gaps in his career or make sense of the numbering of revivals which in Mr Flanagan’s latter years seem to relate to twice yearly rather than annual productions.
    I would be most grateful for any help you can give.

    Many thanks
    Lucy

    • Hi Lucy

      Thanks for your interesting comments, I will look into it and see what I can find. where do you live, if it in the Manchester Area when the libraries re open you can request the boxes of theatre programmes and playbills for the Queens theatre for the years that you want and spend an interesting day looking through the collection. You do need to request them in advance of your visit. You can do this by phoning the archive + number

      Good luck and I promise I will see what info I have got

      Kind regards

      Marilyn

    • I, too, am researching William Macready and Edne Godfrey-Turner in relation to my study of the BBC’s heavy reliance on Shakespeare in the Corporation’s early years. WM was appointed to the post of producer at the Birmingham/Daventry/Experimental radio stations in 1924 and was responsible for a wide range of productions by various playwrights. He also adapted and produced several Shakespeare plays. I managed to find many references to him on the British Newspapers Online site and have determined that one his earliest if not first stage appearance was in ‘Sardanapalus’ by Lord Byron in 1897 at the the Theatre Royal, Preston. When was he born? When did he marry Edna G-T, and when did he die? I really do hope to hear fron you Lucy. Donald Craig

      • Hi Donald

        Don’t know if this message was meant for me I have only written about William McCready when he appeared in plays in Manchester. If you still need any help please let me know

        Kid regards

        Marilyn

        • Sorry, Marilyn, I should have made that clear. I really would like to be in contact with Lucy Titcomb who write to about William Macready. If you would let her have my email address or that I have shown great interest in her post, I should be very grateful. W Macreasdy’s name keeps popping up in the work I am doing and there is a dearth of information despite his having been a BBC producer and well-known throughout the UK. I have managed to cull information from British Newspapers Online. An exchanjge withi her would be very helpful indeed.
          While, I am here I know, having lived in Manchester during my teen years, that amateur theatre thrived and that there were several highly thought-of companies such as the Unnamed Theatre, The Green Room Company and The Tudor players which demonstrated very high standards. Do you know about any of them or of anyone who else who does, or might?
          Thank you for responding so quickly – much appreciated.
          Best wishes
          Donald

  3. Many thanks, Marylin. I am very grateful for your help. I have just emailed her and am looking forward to her reply.

    Donald

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