Theatres/Venues 3a: Brisbane

Brisbane CBD and South Bank ……. p.1
Fortitude Valley, New Farm & Spring Hill…… p.2
Southern Suburbs…… p.3
South-Western Suburbs…… p.4
South-Eastern Suburbs…… p.5
Northern Suburbs…… p.6


Brisbane 2

ACADEMY OF MUSIC: See Albert Hall [1]



aka Academy of Music / Liddy’s Gaiety Theatre

(1881-1999) Adelaide Street.

Situated  between Edward and Albert Streets, Brisbane’s first Albert Hall opened on 20 September 1881. Seating around 1000 people it was initially used for musical concerts and dramatic performances. The building was remodelled and renamed twice – he first in time in 1884 (Academy of Music) and again in 1886 (Gaiety Theatre). It was also known briefly as Liddy’s Gaiety (1890-91). The building became a parcels Post Office in 1899 and was demolished in 1909 to make way for extensions to Finney Isles’s shop frontage.

Entertainments staged in theatre between 1886 and 1899 included those by the Taylor-Carrington Company (Harrry Taylor and Ella Carrington), Wilson Forbes Dramatic Company, Hamilton’s Dramatic Company, the Great Pantomime Company, and the Gaiety Pantomime Company.


ALBERT HALL [2] (1901-1968) Situated on Albert Street, between Ann and Turbot Streets, used by local musical, choral and elocution groups as well as visiting performers, university drama societies. The building’s second level housed the Central Methodist Mission and during the depression Albert Hall served as a soup kitchen (run by the Methodist Ladies Guild). Between 1940 and its closure the halls was used by various local companies including Twelfth Night Theatre Co., Brisbane Arts Theatre, Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society, Brisbane Opera Society and Musica Viva. The Queensland Government demolished the building to make way for the S.G.I.O. offices and the S.G.I.O. Theatre (later Suncorp Theatre).



aka The Ritz / Bohemia Stadium

(1912-ca.1955) Stanley Street, South Brisbane.

The Bohemia initially used for boxing/wrestling matches and community meetings. Between the late 1910s and mid-1920s it became popular as a variety house. The theatre was closed down in 1935 and then re-opened in September 1938 by Les Turner as the Ritz Theatre. Also known as the Bohemia Stadium it was bought by the Brisbane City Council in the 1940s and eventually demolished to make way for a car park.

The northern end of Stanley Street, where the Bohemia used to stand, no longer exists as a traffic thoroughfare having been absorbed into the South Bank Parklands. A Map of Brisbane and Suburbs from the 1920s shows the original street plan for the South Brisbane/South Bank area (available courtesy of the National Library of Australia).



aka Cremorne Gardens

(1911-1954) Southbank, Brisbane.

Built by Edward Branscombe for his Dandies costume companies, the open-air Cremorne Gardens (later Cremorne Theatre) was located adjacent to Victoria Bridge. Purchased by John N. McCallum in 1916, the venue was later leased out to various theatre and film concerns but remained under the McCallum family’s control until it burned down in 1954. Among the companies and people associated with the venue during its 50-odd years were the Dandies, Courtiers Costume Comedy Company, Town Topics, Huxham’s Serenaders, Pat Hanna’s Famous Diggers and Will Mahoney and Evie Hayes.



aka St James Theatre / Paris Theatre

(1911-1986) 176 Albert Street, Brisbane.

Built especially for Ted Holland and Percy St John, the Empire was situated between Queen and Elizabeth Streets and hailed on its opening as one of the finest purpose-built vaudeville theatres in the southern hemisphere. Following their deaths in 1914 and 1915 respectively, the theatre was managed by the Fullers until the original lease expired in 1918. The company then took over control and it subsequently became known as Fullers’ Empire Theatre. From 1930 onwards the venue operated largely as a cinema. It was demolished in 1986 to make way for the Myer Centre.


GAIETY THEATRE: see Albert Hall [1]

HOYTS REX: See Rex Theatre (Fortitude Valley)




aka Victoria Theatre / Royal Victoria Theatre / Queensland Theatre

(1865-1880) Elizabeth Street, Brisbane.

Hotelier/entrepreneur George B. Mason, credited with introducing regular theatrical performances to Brisbane, opened his concert hall on 25 January 1865 with Governor Sir G.F. Bowen in attendance. The first entertainment offered was a combination of variety performances and dramatic representations by professional and amateur artists. Over the next 15 years the theatre was frequently renovated. It was also known variously as Mason’s Theatre, Victoria Theatre, Royal Victoria Theatre and Queensland Theatre. The building was demolished in 1880 by James Thynne who built the Theatre Royal in its place.

For further details into Mason’s Concert Hall see Simon and Delyse Ryan’sTheatres.” The Academy Literature and Drama Website (2012).



(1912-1924) Corner of Ann St and North Quay, Brisbane.

Situated on the Brisbane riverside in the heart of the CBD, the Palace Gardens was an open-air entertainment venue built initially for Ted Holland and Percy St John by a consortium comprising Edward Branscombe, John N. McCallum and Holland and St John. At various times the Palace became an open-air cinema, and presented drama and boxing. Among the variety companies to play there were Walter George‘s Smart Set, Chas Weston’s Royal Strollers, Carlton Max’s Follies, Harry Borradale‘s Sparklers and C. Post Mason‘s All-Star Vaudeville and Photoplays company.


PARIS THEATRE: See Empire Theatre

QUEENSLAND THEATRE: See Mason’s Concert Hall

REX VALLEY: See Rex Theatre (Fortitude Valley)

THE RITZ: See Bohemia Theatre



(1928-1930) Victoria Place, South Brisbane (southern end of the Victoria Bridge, adjacent to the Brisbane River)

The Romantique Cabaret was a riverside cafe and dance palais established by Septimus R. Doolan in November 1928. Under his management “formal” entertainments” were presented twice weekly, with the venue reverting to dance-only evenings or function-venue during the remainder of the week. The formal nights were initially staged under the direction of C. Ernest Moss, with high profile comedian Billy Maloney employed to oversee and star in the vaudeville programme. The first orchestra was under the direction of Wally Higgs. Addie Cantwell took over as new event director in April 1929. Billy Smith became the new music director in May. Doolan sold his interest to a newly-established consortium in November but the economic crisis saw their plans to make the venue a “favourite haunt of Brisbane fail. The company was voluntarily wound-down in November 1930.

Image source: Brisbane Courier 8 Dec. 1928, 2.


ROYAL VICTORIA THEATRE: See Mason’s Concert Hall



aka North Brisbane School of Arts / Old School of Arts

(1851-1878) Corner of Queen and Creek streets.

School of Arts 1 - Bris [S o A Centenary]One of the earliest buildings used for public performances in Brisbane, the first School of Arts opened in October 1851. Although mostly used for educational presentations and community events, it was also occasionally used by touring and local entertainments. A rebuilding in 1866, followed soon after by an economic depression, created financial difficulties for the organisation and led to a forced sale in 1872 to the Queensland National Bank. The School of Arts subsequently leased the building until 1878. It remained available for hire (as the Old School of Arts) until demolished ca. 1884 to make way for the bank’s new premises.

  • For further details see: Percy E. Hunter (compiler). The Brisbane School of Arts Centenary: 1849-1949. Brisbane (1949).
In addition to the long-running (Original) Brisbane Amateur Minstrels, other variety troupes to appear there included the Court Minstrels (1863), Brown’s Christy Minstrels (1864), and the Christy Minstrels [2] (1865).


SCHOOL OF ARTS [2] Located in Ann Street, the second School of Arts building was erected in 1866 as a clearing house and hostel for new domestic servants. Acquired by the School of Arts committee in 1873 the property was then leased out while the organisation rented the Creek Street building from the Queensland National Bank. No professional variety or theatrical companies have yet been identified as using the Ann Street premises after the School of Arts eventually moved there in May 1878. The building operated under its auspices until taken over by the Brisbane City Council in 1965.


ST JAMES THEATRE: See Empire Theatre



Th Royal - Bris 1 [NLA](1881-1987) Elizabeth Street, Brisbane.

Built as a replacement for Mason’s Concert Hall, the 1350 seat Theatre Royal opened on 18 April 1881. Between 1899 and the 1910s variety was the dominant entertainment at the Royal, with major lessees being Percy St John, Thomas Delohery and Ted Holland, Harry Rickards and James Brennan. Electric lights were installed in 1911. Commandeered by the US Army for entertainment during WWII, it was later leased by Will Mahoney. After being closed in 1959 it used by musical and theatrical groups and prior to being demolished in 1987 operated as a nightclub.

Image: Architectural drawing of the facade of Theatre Royal, Brisbane, 1891. Source: National Library of Australia.



Tivoli - Bris [PQ-SLQ](1915-1965) Albert Street (opposite Brisbane Town Hall).

The 1,800 seat Tivoli was built by Hugh D. McIntosh and opened on 15 May. The opening saw the Tivoli Follies play the main auditorium with a vaudeville company upstairs in the Roof Garden. Despite being part of the Tivoli circuit the theatre never managed to overtake the popularity of the Fullers‘ Empire Theatre [above] during the 1910s and 1920s. It was purchased by the Brisbane City Council in 1963 and closed in 1965. The Council demolished the theatre prior to constructing the King George Square.

The Tivoli Follies featured 44 performers – notably Jack Cannot, Vaude and Verne, Isabelle D’Armond, Alfredo, Jack Haskell & Mademoiselle Clero. Companies and firms linked to the the theatre in later years included J.C. Williamson’s, Philip Lytton, Kings Dramatic Company, William Anderson Premier Dramatic Company, and Vaudeville de Luxe. The Roof Garden theatre held more intimate performances including: “Signaller Tom Skeyhill‘s Gallipoli War Lecture Season.”
Image source: State Library of Queensland.


TOWN THEATRE: See Rex Theatre (Fortitude Valley)

VICTORIA THEATRE: See Mason’s Concert Hall


Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies. For information concerning copyright issues see “Copyright” attachment in the AVTA “About” page.

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Published on April 16, 2011 at 8:03 am  Comments Off on Theatres/Venues 3a: Brisbane