William Alexander of Dundee, 1898-1900; GPK Young, interior restoration after fire 1924; alterations 1950s and 1960s, canopy added 1967; Gordon and Dry Partnership, extension and renovation, 1981. High Street frontage MacLaren & Mackay, Perth, 1897 (see Notes). Striking 4-storey, 6-bay (above ground) classically-detailed tenement and shop frontage in distinctive red sandstone with dominant shouldered and corniced wallhead stacks, canopied entrance leading through tenement to conservatory-style foyer and piend-roofed brick built theatre with outstanding little-altered rococo auditorium. Ground floor cornice and plain frieze, cill courses and eaves cornice. Channelled ashlar pilasters with decorative consoled capitals flank ground floor shops and theatre entrance, latter with keystoned roundheaded doorway; 1st and 2nd floors with corniced windowheads, some raised margins, stone mullions.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: principal (S) elevation with canopied theatre entrance leading to ironwork gate and deep-set 2-leaf part-glazed panelled timber door to left of centre at ground, shop to left with in-canted door and 2 modern shops to right. Similar fenestration pattern to each floor above comprising single window to left of centre with 2 bipartite windows beyond and bipartite to right of centre with single window and tripartite beyond. Cutlog Vennel elevation to W with windows and door to low piended ashlar bays giving way to later timber link to brick theatre building. Plain piended brick elevation to Mill Street (N).
INTERIOR: entrance through ground floor of tenement and stairs up to foyer with decorative cast iron trusses supporting glass roof, relief of Marjorie Dence by Scott Sutherland 1969 and re-sited memorial stone laid by George
Alexander (see Notes). Fine rococo plasterwork to 2-tiered auditorium with horse-shoe plan circle and balcony, linking to boxes and proscenium; narrow cast-iron columns; bowed balcony front with consoled features and straight upper balcony front with elegant swag detail. Fluted Ionic pilasters below boxes, Ionic-capitalled baluster shafts flanking boxes, and Corinthian-pilasters with ornamented shafts above; arched panels over boxes and proscenium. Plain circled ceiling from 1924.
Statement of Special Interest
The very fine interior at Perth Theatre is an unusually intact and rare survival of this building type. The foundation stone of the 'Perth Theatre and Opera House' as it was known, was laid by George Alexander Esq of St James Theatre, London 6 October 1889, and the opening evening on 6 September 1900 was reported in the Perthshire Advertiser as a "Brilliant gathering" with a mass of people waiting in the High Street for the doors to open, and "If the interior was beautiful by day it was absolutely gorgeous by night with the full glare of the gas setting off every hole and corner, every arch featuring to the best possible advantage. A theatrical gem of its kind, much praise to William Alexander of Dundee". The original entrance was covered with a "Frilly cast-iron glazed canopy, which once stretched the full length of the street frontage" (Haynes), and the auditorium had 950 seats. The first performance, given by the Turner Opera Company, was Maritana. Manager John H Savile of the Paisley Theatre ran the Perth Theatre until his death soon after a fire, on 28 April 1924, which caused serious damage to both balconies and the ceiling. Bruce describes the original ceiling as "a saucer shaped dome, painted to resemble a sky with puffy clouds and a border of wreaths and flowers, where the names of great masters of the musical world were spelled out in gold leaf". When the theatre reopened on 22 September 1924, now managed by Mrs Savile and her daughter, it had been well restored but with a much plainer ceiling.
The High Street tenement and shops were built for the Stobie family. The building incorporated a pend hallway leading to a rear stair. The pend opening subsequently became the main theatre entrance and the stair area to the rear was extended to form a covered court leading to the theatre.
The Perth Repertory Theatre was founded in 1935 by Marjorie Dence and David Steuart, and many famous actors have performed here, including Sir Alec Guiness, Donald Pleasance and Edward Woodward.
From May to December 1981, a series of changes took place at the theatre, including replacing the seats and redecorating the auditorium, and the building of a coffee bar, restaurant and workshops.
William Alexander trained with James and William MacLaren, setting up business in Dundee circa 1865. During the 1890s he was working on a number of local commissions including the East Poorhouse and Maryfield Hospital, Municipal Offices, Central Electricity Station and St Mary's Church in Dundee.
List description updated as part of the Theatres Thematic Study 2010.