Theatre Royal, Montrose

Theatre Royal
Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal, located in Bridge Street, is the only remaining Georgian theatre in Angus. The Theatre, as it was known when it opened on Monday, April 11, 1814, was supported by the country gentry, most of whom had town houses in Montrose. The Theatre productions appear to have coincided with the social scene of the gentry, opening the season in September and closing at the end of December, when they would have retired to the country. Patrons of the New Theatre included the Dowager Lady Ramsay of Balmain, General Carnegie, the Honourable W. Maule, M.P., Miss Erskine of Dun, and the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Montrose.

The most popular productions were Shakespearean tragedies, notably Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet. Edmund Kean, an English Tragedian of undoubted genius, appeared in Montrose on September 30, 1822. George Beattie, a Montrose lawyer born in St. Cyrus, had his poem John o’ Arnha’ dramatized for stage and performed in the Theatre. The hero of the tale was the colourful John Finlay, one of the Burgh officers. John had a high opinion of his own importance and the unbelievable tales of his escapades inspired the writing of George Beattie’s poem. Also, James Norval, M.A., a teacher at Montrose Academy, and a gifted lecturer on astronomy, had the dramatized version of his play The Generous Chief : A Tragedy first produced in Montrose. Besides Shakespearean Tragedy, also popular was melodrama, farce, comedy and opera. The entertainment was also interspersed with ballads, poetry recitations, and duets, etc.

Review
Review

In the Montrose Review of October 1, 1819, appears a description of the Theatre Royal, as it has now become known. The article enthuses about the interior being most tastefully and superbly decorated, with its beautifully ornamented box panels, classical figures, wreaths and festoons. In the centre of the ceiling, painted in the colour of the sky, is a large star, supported by four charming little cupids, the whole image being of "exquisite beauty."

The Theatre did not own the property at 36 Bridge Street, and the manager, Mr Corbet Ryder, was a lessee of Mr. James Anderson. This lease was due to expire in November, 1828, and a Summons of Removing was served against Mr. Ryder and his Company on 18 September, 1828. The problems seem to have been resolved however and on March 13, 1829 the Theatre reopened with Mr. Charles Bass as manager. The Theatre had undergone a complete renovation, with the whole of the interior having been ‘newly and elegantly’ painted, and the building is now referred to as ‘A New Theatre’. On December 10, 1830, there appeared in the Montrose Review an advertisement for the Theatre to be sold, by private bargain. The Theatre does, however, carry on, but only sketchy details are known of the quality and regularity of the performances staged. The Theatre is obviously in decline by the mid-1830s, and the last performance seems to have been around about February, 1837.

The Rivals
The Rivals

In the last few years it is known the Theatre was beset by problems. Summonses were served on several occasions for furnishings, work performed and posters printed, which had not been paid for. On one occasion, a play lost the Company almost 600 - a vast sum of money at this time. There were also one or two reviews which spoke of ‘thin audiences’ and ‘poor performances’. In approximately 1840 the Theatre reverted to being an ordinary house.

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