THE NEW THEATRE AT FREMANTLE.
A HANDSOME STRUCTURE.
To-morrow evening will witness, at Fremantle, the opening of The King's Theatre—a handsome structure—in the erection of which some thousands of pounds have been expended, and employment has been found for a small army of workmen for a period extending over eight months. The requirements of the community at Fremantle demanded a theatre such as that which now occupies a place amongst the architectural adornments of the Port, and a grateful acknowledgment is due to Mr. James Gallop, of "Dalkeith," who is the proprietor of the new building. That gentleman was fortunate in securing a site which is generally recognised as the best possible one for a theatre. It adjoins the Freemasons' Hotel, in South-terrace, and was until recently the location of the Olde Englyshe Fayre.
The building, which is in the renaissance style of architecture, has a neatly designed, but not extravagantly ornamented facade. There are six beautiful pedestal lamps, which were lighted on Saturday night, furnishing a brilliant illumination. A feature of the exterior of the structure is the unroofed promenade, 12ft. wide and 200ft. long, extending the full length of the property, and corresponding with the handsome balcony of the Freemasons' Hotel. A row of five shops in the front of the building should be exceedingly useful for revenue purposes. There are three spacious entrances to the theatre, the dress circle door being in the centre. This opens on to an attractive granolithic staircase leading above to the vestibule, off which are large and convenient cloak-rooms for ladies and gentlemen. Recently Mr. George Musgrove visited the theatre, and when he passed through these rooms he remarked that they were as good, if not better, than anything he had seen in London. On the opposite side is a large foyer, 35ft. square, which, like the cloak-rooms, opens on to the promenade. The stalls entrance on the west side of the
building is also spacious, and has been constructed so as to minimise as far as possible the inconvenience of crowding. This remark applies also to the pit entrance, on the other side of the theatre. Unlike many other places of amusement the Fremantle Theatre is not cramped in its construction. There is plenty of space on either side, which, besides being of great advantage in the case of a panic, if one should occur at any time, has enabled the architect to grapple successfully with the problem of providing light and ventilation.
Having admired the exterior of the building, one is prepared for the view inside. The first impression is that the accommodation is inadequate for the probable requiremenits, but inquiries elicit the fact that an audience of 1,200 can be comfortably seated, apart from the gallery. It is a theatre of only one gallery, "the gods" having been abandoned. This example has been set by the new theatres in America and Europe, for several reasons, the chief of which is that the upper gallery spoils the dress circle by confining the air and stopping ventilation. It is stated that large houses are not popular with managers of companies, who prefer a compact building which may be comfortably filled every night, and which will give the spectators in all parts of the house a good view of the stage. The auditorium is 68ft. 6in. x 57ft., with a height of 33ft. The domed ceiling is furnished with ornamental ventilators, which can be rolled away, and there are corresponding slides in the roof, sufficient to leave an open space of about 10ft. square.
Special attention has been given to the dress circle, which has accommodation for 300 people. The seats, which were locally made to a special design by the architect, are upholstered in crimson Utrecht velvet, and they are so arranged that an uninterrupted view of the stage may be had from any one of them. No pillars supporting an upper gallery obstruct the vision of the occupant of the circle and cut in two a picture on the stage. The floors of the aisles are richly carpeted, and no trouble or expense has been spared to provide for the comfort of patrons. The stalls and the pit will seat about 900, and here again the arrangements have been carried out with a judicious regard to the convenience of the people who will use those parts of the house. The floor is level, but the seats in the pit, underneath the dress circle, have been raised on a gradual slope, so that a splendid view of the performance may be obtained. Provision has been made by the architect for increased accommodation for patrons of the popular part of the house, should such alteration be required at any future date. The decorations are artistic throughout the auditorium. The balustrade of the circle is finished in gold and soft toues of lilac and cream, and the same colours have been used for the proscenium.
Probably the scenic work could not have been placed in more capable hands than those of Messrs. Phil. Goatcher and Son, of Perth, and the new theatre contains no more attractive feature than the drop curtain. It is certainly a fine specimen of the scenic painter's art. The curtain which is of asbestos, measures 32ft. by 22ft., and on it is painted a representation of "Diana Going to the Chase."
All of the colours for the production were specially imported from Messrs. Sherwood and Williams, of America. Seated in her gilded chariot, the goddess, surrounded by her retinue and slaves, is depicted with artistic force, and the colouring is in harmony with the tapestries and borderings of the curtain. The Port of Fremantle is represented in the lower panel, and on either side are the two masks of "Comedy" and 'Tragedy," with four Cupids bearing garlands and clusters of fruit. The panels at the sides are deoorated with dancing figures and emblems of Music and the Drama.
By far the most striking part of the theatre is the stage, which is, it is claimed, extensive enough for the production of the largest and most spectacular pieces that are ever likely to be put on. It is 60ft by 40ft., with fly galleries at 20ft. and gridiron at 52ft. from the floor, so that all scenery may be raised without rolling. There is a paint-frame at the back of the stage, upon which a curtain 42ft. wide, can be painted, and all modern and up-to-date appliances have, it is stated, been provided. The cellar is 60ft. by 40ft. and 10ft. deep, and is well lighted and fitted with all the usual trap-doors, etc. from the stage floor. The dressing-rooms are on the west side of the stage, and are accessible through the stalls entrance.
The rooms, which are commodious and well ventilated, are arranged in suites of four on the ground and first and second floors. They are comfortably fitted up, and are provided with lavatories and all conveniences. The fire service is complete, and there would seem to be little fear of an outbreak gaining an extensive hold of the building. There are no fewer than thirteen escape doors scattered throughout the theatre, and the place could be emptied in a few minutes.
Many professionals, besides Mr. Musgrove have visited the theatre, and they have all expressed delight at the accommodation for the performers behind the curtain, and for the public in the auditorium. The building reflects great credit upon all who have been engaged in its construction. Mr. F. W. Burwell, F.R.I.B.A. (Lond.) of Fremantle, is the architect, and at the request of Mr. Gallop, as much of the work as was possible was carried out locally. The contract was secured by Mr. James Brownlie who had with him as clerk of works Mr. W. Sefton. Messrs. Craig and Co. did the painting and the granolithic work was carried out by Messrs. J. Crothers and Co. Messrs. Griffiths and Wright were the contractors for the seating and unholstering work and the lightings arrangements were attended to by the Fremantle Gas Company.
The management were fortunate in such a popular company as that of which Miss Maud Jeffries and Mr. Julius Knight and the leading members to open the theatre. Tomorrow evening this combination will begin a season of four nights and will be followed by the Holloway Company who, in turn, will give place to the Brandon-Cremer Dramatic Company.
The West Australian [Perth], Thursday 14 October 1897: 6