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Early Wellington



The Wellington Saloon, a hall used as a theatre, adjoining the Ship Hotel, Te Aro, was opened on Thursday, 11th May, 1843, and was crowded to excess. The boxes were filled with the principal merchants and aldermen. From 200 to 300 persons could not gain admission.

The performance of “A Ghost in Spite of Himself,” some songs and recitations were rendered, and “The Village Lawyer” terminated the performance. Mr. Marriott was in charge of the proceedings.

(N.Z. Journal, 9/12/43.)

The Theatre in Manners Street, nearly opposite the Arcade, was decidedly neat internally, was well seated, and had a commodious dress circle. It was conducted by Mr. J. H. Marriott and Mr. and Mrs. Minifie. It was subsequently removed to a site adjoining the Aurora Tavern in Willis Street (site of the Melbourne Hotel). The Aurora Theatre was the first building to be illuminated by gas. The gas being extracted from oil which was presented to Mr. Marriott by the whalers, who at that time (1844) frequented Port Nicholson.

The gas was stated to be equal in quality and brilliancy to the article supplied by the Wellington Gas Company, “Which, however,” writes Bishop in his guide, “is not acceding much.”

The Britannia Saloon advertised “A Mr. Sutherland's Night” for Tuesday evening October 12, 1847. A Scotch drama in three acts, called “Red Ronald the Rover” was to be performed by the following artists:—Wandering Stenvel, Mr. Sutherland; Red Ronald, Mr. Marriott; Lawrette, Mrs. Ama; song, “Ye Banks and Braes,” Miss Colman; “Highland Shepherds dancing,” Mr. and Mrs. Grimaldi; and “Queer Sayings,” Mr. Green; “Scots wha hae,” Mr. Marriott in character; hornpipe by a gentleman; and the whole to conclude with a farce, “The Middy Ashore or Sprees on Land.”

(Independent, 6/10/1847.)
page 403

On May 30th, 1849, a dramatic entertainment was given at the Barracks at Lambton Quay. The name of the production was “The Child of Nature,” and a farce called “The Queen's Horse” was rendered by men of the 65th Regiment. The same journal (“Independent”) advertised:—

“On the 19th January, 1857, at the Royal Olympic Theatre, Manners Street, the performance will commence with, by particular desire, the interesting drama in five acts entitled “The Stranger,” to be followed by an interlude of songs, dances, duets, etc. The whole to conclude with the celebrated farce entitled “The Clock Maker's Hat.”

“Admittance: Boxes 4/-; Pit 2/-; children half-price. Doors open at eight, to commence at half-past eight precisely. The public are respectfully informed that to avoid confusion, the seats will be numbered, and tickets sold accordingly.

“Good order will be observed and no smoking allowed.”

On Monday, August 2, 1858, the romantic and musical Scotch drama in three acts entitled “Rob Roy” or “Auld Lang Syne,” with all the original music, was advertised to take place at the Royal Lyceum Theatre. The performers were Misses Clara Seymour, Leslie, Burns, Thompson, Julia Clifford, Murray and Dalley, and Messrs. Brown, Devize, J. Minifie, Morton, Clements, Owen, T. Minifie, J. H. Marriott, Sutherland, Bruton, Murray, Jones and Thomas. Miss Leslie and Mr. Manuel were to dance the celebrated Pas de Deux entitled “La Varsovienne.”

Royal Lyceum Theatre.

“The public are respectfully informed that on Tuesday evening, the 20th inst. (20/1/57), the above Theatre will re-open with the splendid Melo-Drama in two acts, entitled ‘The Idiot Witness,’ being for the first time in Wellington.

“Walter Arlington and Mrs. Bryan. Jack Rags statues by Messrs. Axtelle and Broughton.

“The ‘Gay Cavalier.’ in character, by Mrs. Bryan. Mr. Axtelle will describe the ‘Doleful Tragedy of Vilikins and his dear Dinah’ with a new version. A ‘Flag Hornpipe’ by Mr. Broughton. The whole to conclude with, for the first time here, the celebrated farce called ‘The Most Unwarrantable Intrusion.’ Committed by Mr. Clifton to the great annoyance of Mr. Broughton. Boxes 4/-; Pit 2/-; Children half-price. Doors open at eight, to commence at half-past eight precisely. Smoking strictly prohibited.

“In active preparation, a startling Melo-Drama and the celebrated farce of ‘The Widow's Victim.’

Mr. B. M. Osborne,

Lessee and Manager.
Well.,16th Jan., 1857.”
Vivat Regina.