Flash back: The theatre in the round; Jade Wright on the history of one of Liverpool's most famous theatres.THOUSANDS of people in Liverpool will know the Rotunda rotunda
In Classical and Neoclassical architecture, a building or room that is circular in plan and covered with a dome. The Pantheon is a Classical Roman rotunda. The Villa Rotonda at Vicenza, designed by Andrea Palladio, is an Italian Renaissance example. , at the junction of Scotland Road Scotland Road or Scottie Road is situated aside the docks in the Vauxhall area of north Liverpool. History
Scotland Road was created in the 1770s as a turnpike road to Preston via Walton and Burscough. and Stanley Road. But once there was a large theatre on the grou nd now occupied by trees and grass.
The Rotunda Theatre, which made Scotland Road world famous, stood on the land from 1869 until it was destroyed by the Blitz bombing in 1940.
Now local historian Jackie Waters has discovered an unusual way of exploring its history. She has written an article on the commercial advertisements in the theatre programmes as part of the Rotunda Community College Great Mersey Street project.
"The Rotunda must have been a wonderful old place," says Jackie. "I spent two days in the record office reading all the old programmes and it was fascinating."
Originally a public house, the Rotunda could seat 1,790 people in its heyday, and saw some of the biggest names in popular entertainment. The story goes that it had a brass rail at the front of the gallery, wired up to give an electric shock to anyone who dared mar its brightly polished sheen with a fingerprint.
An extract from Jackie's article lists the advertisers from one particular programme:
"William Price William Price may refer to:
'Do you know the New Credit System which enables respectable householders to walk in some of the best shops in Liverpool and purchase drapery goods, clothing, books, and every household requisite exactly as cash customers?'"
"To avoid the crush and crowd, admission by early door at a charge of sixpence each extra to all parts of the theatre except gallery (gallery 6d.)
"The programme goes on to tell us 'Comm. Boxing Day Dec 1890 doors open 1.30pm to commence at 2pm. Children under ten half price. Private box 42/-and 21/- Single ticket 5/- and 3/- Family circle and orchestra stalls 2/6d pit stalls 1/6d pit 1/- Ampi circle 6d gallery 4d."
The Rotunda had a reputation as one of the leading centres of melodrama in the provinces. The policy of plays and a pantomime at Christmas was continued until 1917 during which time the repertoire was not entirely devoted to melodrama, since it included, Hamlet, Jim the Penman Jim the Penman is a nickname given to two famous forgers:
Stage plays with motion pictures on the bioscope bi·o·scope
An early movie projector.
1. a kind of early film projector
2. S African a cinema
1. as an added attraction were presented between 1912 and 1917, when following the end of a special return visit of the pantomime Robinson Crusoe on February 24, the change was made to revues and variety performances.
The well known comedian Robb Wilton, whose Liverpool debut had been at the Theatre Royal, Anfield in 1890 appeared at the Rotunda Theatre in March 1917. This prompted a comment in the local press that the Rotunda Theatre had made a capital entry into the new form of entertainment.
This was to continue throughout the 1920s and 1930s and until the week ending September 21 1940, when the theatre was completely destroyed by the Blitz.
The last performances at the Rotunda were of Star Variety with a bill of first class acts once nightly at 7pm. The site of the theatre was cleared some time after the war and was subsequently laid out with grass and small trees as it remains now.
COMEDY AND DRAMA: The theatre was famous for its pantomimes and melodramas which drew massive audiences; STAR TURN: Comedian Robb Wilton, left; WHAT'S ON: The Rotunda's programme shows the facade of the former public house, and has an advert for North End Music Stores, or NEMS n. 1. (Zool.) The ichneumon. , the store run years later by Brian Epstein; WHERE IS IT? The Rotunda as it appeared on a map of the time - and the piece of land where it stood (back right) as it is today