Hobart Guide for Tourist


They sure don’t make theatres like they used to. Take the Theatre Royal, positively ancient by Australian theatre standards, with its straightback’ seats up top so steep, you can’t help but worry you’ll catch your shoelace and topple onto the stage three floors below. In the good ol’ days, entertainment here extended to music-hall performances and cockfighting, and let’s not forget the seedy tavern that once operated in the basement, popular with prostitutes, sailors and general riff-raff.

Things have been cleaned up considerably since then, over the 175-year existence of this grand dame of Tasmanian theatre. But her colourful and, at times, traumatic past – fire, stage deaths, neglect – inspired the formation of Friends of the Theatre Royal, who host thriceweekly tours of this beautiful building. On such a tour you’ll learn that the best spot to see a ballet is from the very top of the theatre in one of those straight-back seats – a vantage point that means you won’t miss a single step.

Up here you also get a close-up view of portraits of composers on the ceiling and the crests adorning the stage curtains. Downstairs in the stalls by the trapdoor to that old subterranean pub, your guide will regale you with saucy tales of patrons past. You’ll also go backstage through the tiny orchestra pit into the dressing rooms, where stars like Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Marcel Marceau once prepared to grace the Royal’s stage. Tours aside, if you get a chance to see a show here – from the Uni Revue to an international theatre performance, from contemporary music to dance – do it. This old dame’s sure as hell still got what it takes.

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