Junction of Playhouse Lane & Gilles Arcade ADELAIDE (off Grenfell Street or Light Square)
Queen’s Theatre is wedged in behind a multi-level car park that fronts Grenfell Street and Light Square. It was built in 1840 and opened the following year in January with a performance of Shakespeare’s Othello. It was the third to open in Adelaide. The first theatre was in the Adelaide Tavern in Franklin Street. This was one of Adelaide’s main hotels and the Theatre Royal operated around 1838 in the dining room on the first floor. In 1839, Samson Cameron, an actor and theatre company manager, opened the Royal Victoria Theatre on North Terrace near Morphett Street. However, this was a crude theatre, nothing like the Queen’s.
The Queen’s Theatre is the oldest existing theatre on the mainland (Theatre Royal in Hobart opened in 1837). It was built by brothers Vaiben and Emanuel Solomon. Emanuel arrived in South Australia in 1837 ad was one of the founders of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. The Theatre cost an amazing £10000 (about $1 000 000). Because performances were short-lived and the Theatre was not profitable, the Colonial Government took over the building in 1843 and it became the Resident Magistrates Court and Supreme Court.
The building was remodelled with a Georgian facade in 1850 when it reopened as the Royal Victoria Theatre. However, many people were leaving the colony for the goldfields in Victoria, forcing its closure again. Between 1868 and 1973 the building had many functions including operating as the City Mission, and in 1877 Formby’s Horse Bazaar was located there until about 1900. In the 1980s the building was at risk of demolition but when remnants of the original theatre were discovered, there was strong agitation (including from Barry Humphries) to conserve the building. Strict conditions now apply to the building so that it can be preserved as an important part of Adelaide’s history.