Theatre Royal, Bristol

Venue Type & Location

Theatre

Site Name: Theatre Royal, Bristol
Location: Bristol
County: Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location

Overview

  • Address: King Street, Bristol.
    Click here for map



  • Alternate Names: Bristol Old Vic



  • Capacity: The original theatre building held 1600 spectators. After several auditorium renovations, the Theatre Royal now seats 668.



  • Audience Composition: Over the years, the theatre has been patronized by all segments of Bristol society. According to Kathleen Barker, however, during the mid-19th Century, audiences were small, and the Dress Boxes were especially thinly populated. Barker also notes that patrons in both the pit and the boxes frequently engaged in rowdy, and rather destructive behaviour during the 1840s.



  • Performance Space Description: The Bristol Old Vic is a Proscenium theatre, which was originally modeled (in 1764) on the contemporary Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Whereas the auditorium at Drury Lane is believed to have been rectangular, however, the Bristol Theatre Royal features a rounded, horseshoe shape. For descriptions of the initial building, Click Here.

    Between 1842 and 1852, the stage area was raked, and measured approximately 25’ wide x 27’ deep. The building’s interior was decorated in what Barker calls “ ‘Arabesque or Raphaelic’ style” (110), as indicated in the following contemporary description: “On the Dress Circle allegorical figures are introduced, representing Poetry, Painting, Sculpture, Navigation, Rhetoric, Music and Astronomy. The Second Tier contains classic emblems; and the panels of the Gallery, the figures of infants, emblematic of Tragedy, Comedy, Horticulture, Botany, Genius, Dancing, &c, &c.” (qtd in Barker, ibid). Despite this decoration and other contemporary refurbishments, though, the theatre appears to have been showing signs of age, and, according to Barker, was rather dilapidated throughout the 1840s.


    For further descriptions of the theatre at various points throughout its history, Click Here and Here.



  • Typical Fare: In the years covered by this database, the Theatre Royal offered a range of entertainments. “Legitimate” drama, which was apparently unpopular with local audiences (unless performed by William Macready), was largely outweighed by melodramatic pieces and domestic dramas, along with a vast number of concerts, operas, minstrel shows, dioramas and presentations of 'poses plastiques'. While most of the major stars of the 19th Century appeared on the stage at some point, the major draws during this period were William Macready & Jenny Lind.



  • Performance History

  • The Bristol Old Vic is currently the oldest extant theatre (in everyday use) in Great Britain. It was built between 1764 and 1766, at a cost of over 50,000 pounds (raised by subscription). Thomas Paty is usually credited as the architect, though there is some disagreement over this contention (see Barker 10).



  • Since the 18th Century, the theatre has undergone a number of transformations, including the addition of an extra tier of seating (1800), a reduction of the stage depth (1881), and several changes to the façade (1800, 1903, 1973). In 1972, the stagehouse was entirely rebuilt, and the raked stage was replaced with a flat one (which, according to the Theatre Trust website, is completely inappropriate for the auditorium’s sightlines).



  • The theatre was closed for renovations in August of 2007, and is still attempting to secure funds for necessary construction work.




    Please see the 'Bibliographic Sources' link at right for a complete listing of materials (both primary and secondary) from which the above information was compiled.


    Beth Marquis

  • Events at Theatre Royal, Bristol

    Event Date Venue Location Troupe
    Minstrel Show 8 March 1841 - 8 March 1841 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Smith, Yankee, Coleman, Piccaninny
    Dramatic 3 March 1842 - 3 March 1842 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Celeste, Madame (Quadroon Slave)
    Dramatic 7 March 1842 - 7 March 1842 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Perkins, Charles
    Ballet 11 April 1842 - 11 April 1842 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Light of Other Days Accordionist
    Dramatic 29 August 1842 - 29 August 1842 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Slave Troupe (Bristol, 1842)
    Dramatic 29 August 1842 - 29 August 1842 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Cooke, H.
    Dramatic 9 January 1843 - 9 January 1843 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Fitzwilliam, Mrs.
    Dramatic 13 January 1843 - 13 January 1843 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Fitzwilliam, Mrs.
    Dramatic 16 January 1844 - 16 January 1844 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Anderson, James
    Dramatic 23 January 1845 - 23 January 1845 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Kean, Charles
    Dramatic 7 February 1845 - 7 February 1845 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Slave Troupe (Bristol, 1845)
    Dramatic 13 October 1845 - 13 October 1845 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Slave Troupe (Bristol, 1845)
    Dramatic 16 March 1846 - 16 March 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 18 March 1846 - 18 March 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 20 March 1846 - 20 March 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 23 March 1846 - 23 March 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira, Three Fingered Jack Troupe (Bristol, 46)
    Dramatic 25 March 1846 - 25 March 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 27 March 1846 - 27 March 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 8 September 1846 - 9 September 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48)
    Dramatic 13 September 1846 - 14 September 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48)
    Dramatic 21 December 1846 - 21 December 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Amateur Othello Troupe (Bristol, 46)
    Dramatic 29 December 1846 - 29 December 1846 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Black Doctor Troupe (Bristol, 46)
    Dramatic 8 February 1847 - 8 February 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 12 February 1847 - 12 February 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 15 February 1847 - 15 February 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 18 February 1847 - 18 February 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Vocal Entertainment 26 April 1847 - 28 April 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Russell, Henry
    Minstrel Show 12 July 1847 - 13 July 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Philadelphia and Mississippi Ethiopian Serenaders
    Minstrel Show 21 July 1847 - 21 July 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Female American Serenaders
    Minstrel Show 16 August 1847 - 17 August 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Female American Serenaders
    Dramatic 6 September 1847 - 6 September 1847 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Cooke, H.
    Dramatic 13 June 1848 - 13 June 1848 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Green Bushes Troupe (Bristol, 48)
    Dramatic 12 September 1848 - 12 September 1848 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Creole Troupe (Bristol, 48)
    Dramatic 2 October 1848 - 6 October 1848 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Minstrel Show 10 October 1848 - 12 October 1848 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Dramatic 14 January 1850 - 14 January 1850 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Coleman
    Dramatic 15 March 1850 - 15 March 1850 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Slave Troupe (Bristol, 1850), Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 18 March 1850 - 18 March 1850 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 19 March 1850 - 19 March 1850 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira
    Dramatic 21 March 1850 - 21 March 1850 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira, Three Fingered Jack Troupe (Bristol, 50)
    Dramatic 22 March 1850 - 22 March 1850 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Aldridge, Ira, Robinson Crusoe Troupe (Bristol, 50)
    Dramatic 27 January 1852 - 27 January 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Othello Troupe (Bristol, 52)
    Dramatic 10 May 1852 - 10 May 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Green Bushes Troupe (Bristol, 52)
    Dramatic 1 November 1852 - 5 November 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 8 November 1852 - 12 November 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 15 November 1852 - 19 November 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 22 November 1852 - 27 November 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 29 November 1852 - 4 December 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 6 December 1852 - 10 December 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 13 December 1852 - 14 December 1852 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 24 January 1853 - 26 January 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 7 March 1853 - 8 March 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 1 Troupe (Bristol, 52-3)
    Dramatic 9 March 1853 - 11 March 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 14 March 1853 - 18 March 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 21 March 1853 - 25 March 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 28 March 1853 - 1 April 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 4 April 1853 - 8 April 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 11 April 1853 - 16 April 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 18 April 1853 - 19 April 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 21 April 1853 - 22 April 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Parts 1&2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 25 April 1853 - 25 April 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)
    Dramatic 28 April 1853 - 28 April 1853 Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire Uncle Tom's Cabin Parts 1&2 Troupe (Bristol, 53)

    Bibliographic Sources

    • Arthur Lloyd Website. 05/22/2008 (http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/)

      (Under More Provincial Theatres - Bristol - Theatre Royal)

    • University of Bristol, Kathleen Barker Collection. KB/4.
    • Barker, Kathleen. The Theatre Royal Bristol. 1766-1966. London: The Society for Theatre Research, 1974.
    • Barron, Michael. Auditorium Acoustics and Architectural Design. London: E & FN Spon, 2000.

      pp. 253-257.

    • Bristol Old Vic Homepage. 02/29/2008 (http://www.bristol-old-vic.co.uk/index.aspx)
    • Bristol Record Office Website. 02/28/2008 (http://archives.bristol-city.gov.uk/ )

      (search ‘Theatre Royal’)

    • Carthalia - Theatres on Postcards Website. 09/14/2008 (http://www.andreas-praefcke.de/carthalia/index.html)
    • Images of England (National Monuments Record Website). 02/29/2008 (http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/)

      (Search 'Theatre Royal Bristol')

    • Theatres Trust Website. 03/06/2008 (http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk)

      (Search 'Theatre Royal Bristol')

    • University of Bristol, Bristol Old Vic Archive.