Venue of the Month: His Majesty's

With its distinctive facade and status as the North East's largest venue, His Majesty's Theatre comes under the spotlight.

Feature by Nicole Hepburn | 30 Oct 2009

His Majesty’s Theatre (HMT), Aberdeen has played a central role in the performing arts in the North East since it opened its doors in 1906.

The iconic Frank Matcham design has been required to evolve with the changes in entertainment and changing demands made on public buildings, with refurbishments in the 1930s, 1980s and most recently in 2005.

The 2005 refurbishment was to completely change the face of HMT, while maintaining the grandeur of Matcham’s original design, to create a venue that is open all day with an in-house box office, education facilities and improved conditions for staff, performers and customers.

HMT is run by Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA), which was formed in 2000 to take over the running of both the theatre and the city’s Music Hall. The most recent addition to APA is The Lemon Tree.

As the only large-scale theatre in the North east of Scotland the programming of His Majesty’s is pivotal to its success, something of which APA Chief Executive Duncan Hendry is only too aware.

“The balance has to be struck across more than one dimension – so there is an artistic balance; a balance to ensure financial viability; a balance to ensure different art forms are represented. We try to provide high quality drama, dance, musicals, opera, ballet and panto that will appeal to a diverse audience.

“HMT also has a significant civic venue and one that many amateur groups aspire to. So it is an important role to present amateur groups and festivals but again one that has to be balanced with the other programming demands,” explains Mr Hendry.

Following the £7.8million redevelopment of 2005, HMT has been able to realise its ambitions to become a producing theatre with successes Sunset Song and The Silver Darlings. With HMT now firmly established as more than just a receiving house it looks set to go on producing new works for some time

Mr Hendry said: “We would hope to produce two or three in-house productions each year, however this is dependent on funding for these and on the overall financial situation with the company.”

Future productions at His Majesty's Theatre this winter range from an in-house production of a new play by author and broadcaster Jack Webster, to an international award-winning musical, a 3D panto starring the sublime Elaine C Smith and the first Scottish date on a UK tour of the beloved Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice.

Starring Vivien Heilbron and Michael Mackenzie, The Life of Grassic Gibbon (6 and 7 November) tells the story of one of Scotland's greatest writers, J Leslie Mitchell, otherwise known as Lewis Grassic Gibbon while Chicago (16 - 21 November) sees Gary Wilmot and Emma Barton in what is still one of the sexiest and most sensational musicals around and HMT's hugely popular annual panto – this year Cinderella (28 November - 3 January) – is already shaping up to out sell the last two years' record productions of Aladdin and Peter Pan.

With a capacity of 1500 and over 275,000 customers through the doors last year it is hoped that HMT will continue to be a jewel in the crown of Scottish theatre for many years to come.