Review Blog

Jan 13 2014

Her Majesty's pleasure: A centenary celebration for Adelaide's theatre of the stars

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2013. ISBN 9781743052297.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Theatre. Adelaide History.
Presented in full colour illustrations in a large format book, this history of Her Majesty's Theatre in Grote Street in the Adelaide CBD is just a wonderful read. The author, Frank Van Straten has complied the stories and history of the grand theatre from his amazingly broad experience and collection, while doing extensive research to make this a necessary companion to any study of Adelaide's theatre scene as well as its architectural heritage. And so well written, the stories of this marvelous theatre feel familiar and shout to be recounted. From vaudeville days in the aptly named chapter, Act One, when Stiffy and Mo trod the stage, with the likes of Lilli Gantrey or Ada Reeve, or held plays such as The Mallee Root and The Bushwoman, or encouraged patriotism with shows about ANZAC, the theatre, then called The Tivolli was a proud part of Adelaide's theatre-going population.
Each of the book's major sections, Act One and Act Two, are offered in chronological listings of what happened through the years, the date being the simple heading for each paragraph or two, making it an easy book to dip into.
A foreword by Barry Humphries reiterates the importance of the theatre and recalls his often quoted words that this theatre is his favourite in Australia. These words are followed by an Overture and Prologue, and the two chapters are rounded off with a section on The Future written by the CEO of the Adelaide Festival Centre, Douglas Gautier. The copious illustrations are amazing, not only detailing a history of the theatre, but showing the changes in Adelaide as the theatre went through its paces. It is a wonderful book for browsing, for adding to the history of Adelaide and for making people look again at this theatre in the heart of the city.
Fran Knight

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