A novel new exhibition of archival material telling the story of 19th century entertainment in Newcastle will go on public display for the first time this week. The free ‘Theatres Royal’ Exhibition will bring to light a range of wonderful never-seen-before historical treasures from the Theatres Royal of Mosley Street and Grey Street, and runs at Newcastle City Library from Thursday 10 September until late November.

The first Theatre Royal opened on Mosley Street in Newcastle on 21 January, 1788. In the 19th century the Theatre Royal moved to its present site on Grey Street as a part of the redevelopment of the city centre, and stands as the magnificent Grade 1 listed building we recognise today. Between these years a fascinating story of North East entertainment and the personalities behind it can be traced – reflecting fluctuating tastes and changing fashions including penchants for the fantastical, artistic, egotistical and simply absurd.

The ‘Theatres Royal’ Exhibition will include unseen playbills, diary entries, bill-board posters, programmes, and biographies and many more historical ‘treats and treasures’ covering this period 1781-1990, collected from the extensive Theatres Royal archive. This will be the first time the public have been able to explore these materials. The City Library is hosting the exhibition as part of National Heritage Week.

Right Royal Theatrical Treats and Treasures on show I Love Newcastle

The material has been collected by Sue Hodgson, the Theatre Royal’s honorary archivist. Sue manages the extensive archive at the Theatre Royal itself, at the City Library – cataloguing, collecting and developing it as a usable resource. Sue said: “It seemed an ideal opportunity with the approach of the Heritage Open Days in 2015 to look to the gathering of previously unseen nineteenth century archives which the Theatre Royal boasts. We have arranged the exhibits chronologically to trace a historic narrative of the growth and development of drama in Newcastle and its homes.

“Some items tell of disasters, some of triumphs and some of the great titans of the stage who flourished at the Theatres including Macready, Liston and Kean, but all unite in illustrating the passion Newcastle folk had for their Theatres Royal. We are delighted to welcome the public to this exhibition and hope they enjoy the experience of viewing our theatrical treasures. We are confident they won’t be disappointed!”

The exhibition complements and builds on a permanent exhibition situated in the Theatre Royal’s top foyer, uncovering the range of entertainment Newcastle has boasted from Roman times to the arrival of the RSC and beyond. Philip Bernays, Chief Executive of Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust said: “This new exhibition is a must-not-miss opportunity for anybody interested in Theatre or indeed local history, or for anyone who is simply curious! We are a truly remarkable Theatre with a unique and colourful story and we welcome anyone living in or visiting Newcastle to view our recently unearthed treats and treasures.”

The Theatres Royal Exhibition runs in Room 7, Level 6 of the City Library, 33 New Bridge Street West, NE18 8AX from Thursday 10 September to late November and entry is completely free.

Opening times are Mon-Thurs 8.30am – 8pm, Fri 8.30am – 5.30pm, Sat 9.30am – 5.30pm and Sunday 11am – 5pm.

I Love Newcastle Magazine would love to hear your thoughts about the above post, so please feel free to share them in the comments box below.

Have Your Say