If you go down Bridge Street, Manchester and look at the Masonic Hall, you will see the spot where the Queen’s Theatre was, sadly in 1911 the theatre was demolished and the Masonic Hall built in its place.

At the beginning it had lots of variety programmes including an interesting one in 1876 which according to the programme hosted ‘Frank Fayne’s Wild West Show starring The Kentucky Rifle Team in Klu-Klux Klan. Definitely wouldn’t be allowed today.

In July 1878 there were two short plays performed in Greek, I wonder how the general public managed to understand them! In 1904 there was play performed in which Italia Conte was the top of the bill, she then went on to run her own very famous acting school which has produced lots of very famous stars.

In one of the programmes there was an advert for ‘The Yiddish Operatic and Dramatic Company but sadly the programmes for this is not in the collection. In November 1907 there was a play performed written by Robert Louis Stevenson called ‘Deacon Brodie’.

As the owner of the Theatre, Richard Flanagan was famous for putting on Shakespearean plays, he also managed to make the most beautiful illustrated programmes, such as Cymbeline in 1903; Richard III in 1904; Henry the VIII in 1903; A Winter’s Tale in 1899; As You Like It in 1908 and Antony and Cleopatra in 1908.  These are a must to be seen if you get the chance to come to the Manchester Central Library Archives +.

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Whilst I was working on the programme collection for the Queens’s Theatre, I discovered an amazing collection of post cards of famous actors and actresses in their stage costumes for various Shakespearean plays.  These postcards were taken by a famous Manchester photographer, Percy Guttenberg. His studio was on Oxford Street and when he achieved his fame. Some of his postcards have been displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The famous Shakespearean artistes that are on these postcards are Margaret Halstan whose real name was Clara Maud Hertz; Matheson Lang who was born in Canada but gained fame in England; Ryder Boys; John Wainwright; Leonard Mudie – he went to Hollywood and made several movies.

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Others were Arthur Grenville; Claire Greet; Eileen Kerin; Charles Bibby, Lawson Butt (he later became a film director) and many more.

These pictures are beautiful and unique and represent the theatre of a bygone age, a real must to see!