Generations of North-East folks have, since its opening in 1906 until the current crisis closed it (temporarily we trust), made their way to His Majesty’s Theatre for entertainments of all sorts. Dramatic Arts and Theatre in Aberdeen go back a very long way, with the Annals of Aberdeen telling us that “religious dramatic exhibitions” were performed “as early as the middle of the fifteenth century.”
Fast forward a couple of hundred years and in the middle of the eighteenth century, a bunch of comedians from Edinburgh (no football jokes here please) “repaired to Aberdeen, in hopes of meeting with encouragement from the people there, but such was the opposition raised against them by the magistrates and clergy, who would on no account allow them to exhibit dramatic entertainments within the town, that they were obliged to raise a building, for the purpose of a theatre, in the south side of the Spittal (spelled with two ‘t’s’ in those days), near the extremity of the town. They did not, however, meet with all the encouragement which they expected from the people, and took their departure at the close of a short season.” (there is a very obvious Edinburgh football joke to be made here, but I’ll resist the temptation).
By the end of the 18th century, the magistrates had obviously loosened up a bit, because they allowed another Edinburgh acting company “to perform theatrical entertainments within the town.” This was partly because the town’s inhabitants had got fed up having to traipse out to Spital. despite the fact that there was “a very neat play house” there.
In 1795, a more modern theatre was built on the west side of Marischal Street, capable of holding 500-600 people and at a cost of £1,300. This is equivalent to £157,416 today, which is a lot less than it would cost to build a new theatre, should we ever want to do so. Hopefully, His Majesty’s will soon be up and running fully so that we don’t have to!
Julie Skinner, Resourcing and Benefits Specialist, RGU