The KING'S THEATRE in Russell Street Melbourne, between Bourke and Little Collins Streets, was opened on 11 July 1908. The building was a three storey asymmetrical series of bays ending with a pavilion, leading to a small vestibule. The gallery was still entered by staircases from lanes on both sides of the building.
It was built and owned by William Anderson for his company, so from the start it had an association with the production of spectacular melodrama. Anderson continued his long association with revivals of Alfred Dampier's successes `For the Term of his Natural Life' and `Robbery Under Arms', as well as with the Australian plays of Albert Edmunds (the pseudonym of Edmund Duggan and Albert Edward (Bert) Bailey). Anderson also produced other plays with strongly nationalist and on occasion xenophobic sentiments, including `For Homestead and Honour' in 1912, and William Randolph Bedford's `White Australia' in 1909. For this production Anderson installed an act drop showing an Australian military continent against white, overlaid on a bright blue background with the Eureka flag in its centre.
The King's cost thirty two thousand pounds, seated two thousand two hundred people, and had the latest in modern technology. The fly-tower stage, four stories high, had dressing and wardrobe rooms on each storey and a gallery with switchboard and dimmers for the electric lighting. In the interior marble featured extensively on the floor and walls of the vestibule and in the staircases to the dress circle, while the auditorium was decorated in gold, cobalt blue and royal blue in what was called the modern French Renaissance style. There was a lavish use of fibrous plaster to create effects such as floral devices and cupids on the front of the boxes and over the proscenium, where there was a panel showing Aurora with the children of Joy and Happiness painted to the effect of a tapestry. The dress circle seats were upholstered in blue velvet to match the front curtain, which featured a monogram in gold silk, surmounted by a crown.
Anderson, who had been nearly bankrupted by his failed Wonderland City investment at Tamarama, handed over the management of the theatre to Bailey and Duggan in 1911, but he retained ownership of the King's and held his final season there in July 1929. The theatre was also leased by J. & N. Tait Ltd., J. C. Williamson's and to Fuller's who installed movie projection equipment in 1942. It was used briefly `live' from 1949-51 but then returned to showing films. After Norman B. Rydge purchased the freehold, the theatre was remodelled and reopened as the Barclay cinema in March 1959 but it was finally demolished in 1977 for the development of a multi cinema complex.
Dictionary of the Australian Theatre 1788-1914 (Sydney, Hale & Iremonger,
Philip Parsons (general ed.) with Victoria Chance, Companion to Theatre in Australia (Sydney, Currency Press in association with Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Margaret Williams, Australia on the Popular Stage 1829-1929 (Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1983).