Launceston Advertiser, 5 June 1834
MUSIC AND DRAMA
As far back as the thirties there was a “theatre” in an upper room of the British Hotel, Launceston, but of it no traces are left, and there were other similar places where barn-stormers and embryo tragedians fretted their hour.
The Mercury, 12 September 1903
The theatre at the British Hotel, Launceston’s first theatre, was existence for barely a year (mid-1834 to 1835). The British Hotel was on the corner of Wellington & Balfour Streets. (If you’re interested in the hotel you want this page.) It was first licensed in 1832 and then significantly altered the following year, which included (presumably) the addition of the Assembly Rooms, which were used for entertainments:
THEATRICALS.— Mr. Cameron, and the company of comedians under his management, intend visiting Launceston in a few weeks. The large room in the British Hotel is already engaged; and will be immediately put in readiness for the intended campaign. The great expense necessarily attendant on a journey from Hobart Town, and conveyance of the necessary baggage, containing dresses &c, required by the company, will not be met without very general support from the community.
Launceston Advertiser, 1 May 1834
The Bachelor’s Ball is fixed for the 8th inst.— it will take place at the Assembly Rooms of Mr. Thomas Massey at the British Hotel, in Wellington Street, and is expected to be numerously attended.
The Independent, 3 May 1834
The Assembly Rooms were then adapted as a theatre. You can follow the rise and fall through the news stories and advertisements:
This evening “the Theatre, Launceston,” opens for the first time. A very tolerably sized Theatre has been arranged at the British Hotel Assembly Rooms. The bills announce The Stranger for performance, with The Citizen as an afterpiece. Mr. Cameron will perform the Stranger, and Mrs. Cameron appears in the part of Mrs. Haller. On Saturday evening, it will be seen by advertisement we are to have The Heir at Law, with The Citizen.
Launceston Advertiser, 5 June 1834
The good folks of Launceston were highly gratified on Thursday evening, in witnessing a Theatrical Exhibition in the newly fitted up Theatre, at the British Hotel. We have been accustomed to indulge in the rich treats afforded by Kean, Charles Kemble, Matthews, Dowton, Cook, Miss O’Neil, Foote, Fanny Kemble, and many of the first rate performers in England, and naturally anticipated a mere mimicry, but we were agreeably disappointed—indeed —we did not imagine that a Theatre of so respectable a character could have been got up in Van Diemen’s Land. Upon entering, we were struck with the neatness of the stage fittings, and the excellent arrangements of the seats, which are progressively raised and afford an uninterrupted view of the stage from all parts of the room. Upon entering, we were struck with the neatness of the stage fittings, and the excellent arrangements of the seats, which are progressively raised and afford an uninterrupted view of the stage from all parts of the room.
[goes on to talk about the performances]
The Independent, 7 June 1834
The Theatre. — On Tuesday night we had the excellent and standard comedy of She Stoops to Conquer. On the whole the characters were as well personated as we had any right to expect, this being a comedy which requires general good acting to carry it off with effect.
Launceston Advertiser, 10 July 1834
The Theatre. — On Tuesday night we had Othello at the theatre, performed, we are happy to say, to a very full house. The character of Othello was very creditably filled by Mr. Spencer, who appears to us improving as an actor, and simply from the unaided force of considerable dramatic talents.
Launceston Advertiser, 31 July 1834
THEATRICALS.-— The theatre still engrosses the public favour, as we judge from the overflowing houses which continue to cheer Mr. Cameron’s company in their exertions every Tuesday and Friday. The Stranger was performed on Friday lust, and on Tuesday the Maid and the Magpie, with Monsieur Tonson as the after-piece. In the latter Jacobs was the Frenchman and entered fully into the true intent and meaning of the character. We believe the Theatre closes in a few weeks “for this season.”
Launceston Advertiser, 14 August 1834
THEATRICALS.-— Mr. Jacobs had a full benefit at the Theatre on Tuesday night; and we learn that his brother actors intend giving him another night on Fri-day. Jacob is a good actor, has exerted himself a great deal, and being embarrassed in his pecuniary concerns, we shall be glad to hear that his second benefit is a bumper.
Mr. Cameron, the Manager of the Theatre, proceeds, we hear, to Sydney, on a theatrical mission; his duties during his absence being undertaken by Mrs. Cameron, whose abilities in this department we believe to be unquestionable; but who would feel herself in a very trying situation, but that we are certain every assistance will be rendered her by the company during the absence of her husband. The patron-age, indeed, which the Theatre has received at Launceston is such as to command the undiminished exertions of every actor possessed of proper feeling. An active and efficient Stage Manager has been engaged.
Launceston Advertiser, 11 September 1834
Launceston Advertiser, 9 October 1834
Mr. Cameron, of the Theatre, has returned from Sydney in the Active, after a tedious passage of 27 days; and, as will be seen by advertisement, it is his intention to re-open the theatre on Friday evening, with the tragedy of The Gamester, and the after piece of Miss in her Teens.
Launceston Advertiser, 6 November 1834
THE THEATRE closed here for the season on Saturday night. The members of Mr. Cameron’s company left by Cox’s coach on Monday morning for Hobart Town. We understand they perform in Mr. DEAN’s Room, which has been engaged by Mr. Cameron, on Saturday evening next.
Launceston Advertiser, 11 December 1834
Launceston Advertiser, 5 March 1835
The Theatre we understand will re-open in Launceston in about a month from this time. Mr. Cameron has arrived from Hobart Town to effect the necessary arrangements.
Launceston Advertiser, 28 May 1835
Launceston Advertiser, 11 June 1835
The Theatre.— We mentioned in a number or two back, that Mr. Cameron was to be over with his troop in a few weeks, to commence the second theatrical campaign in the town of Launceston. We suspect he may reckon on a favourable reception from the friends and patrons of the dramatic art, after so long a recess; but nevertheless a few words of well-meant advice and precaution may not be misapplied, with the view of securing to him a prolonged and an adequate remuneration for his exertions.
The experience of the past season must have enlightened Mr. Cameron on many points. He must have ascertained that when the public gave manifestations of being tired with the theatre, it was in every conceivable sense bad policy to continue the representations until they were surfeited with it. He may have also been led to suspect that a somewhat more judicious selection and arrangement of pieces–a trifle more of care in the mechanical arrangements–and a more regularly supported authority in the management–would in all probability have ensured him a much longer duration of that really enthusiastic patronage with which he was at first received in this town. We are not losing sight of the difficulties of Mr. Cameron’s position–our remarks are framed upon a perfect recollection and appreciation of those difficulties; and in what follows indeed we are about to offer suggestions which, if acted upon, it is our belief will place Mr. Cameron in a situation of comparative ease.
It always appeared to us that a mistake was made in giving so many new pieces. New pieces are, it will be said, necessary, where the population being small, the audience of one night is in a great measure the audience of the new. But it is more necessary that the pieces brought out during the season should be so few as to enable the actors to know their parts with some degree of perfectness. Again, Mr. Cameron’s attempts were frequently too ambitious for the materials at his disposal–many of his selections required more actors, a higher order of histrionic talent, and more scenery than it was possible for him to command. The scenic proprieties were sadly violated at times, for the want of an additional forest, or a spare bedroom, or a second parlour. It was therefore no wonder that many of our playgoers had rather have seen a play three or four times over, in which the actors were perfect in their parts, the dresses befitting, and the scenery adequate and not clumsily managed, than a piece for the first time, in which the delight of novelty would be wholly superseded by the lamentable bungling of the dramatis personae, and the incompleteness of the mechanical arrangements. To have fewer pieces, then, during the ensuing season, and to hare pieces not beyond the powers of the company and of the management, is the general advice that we should offer. And in this view, there is a class of three-act comedy, formerly much used at the Adelphi, which would well suit the Colonial Theatres, from the few characters and few scenes required in their presentation, and the admirable interest of their plots. These, and farces, forming the general run of pieces, a few Tragedies or melodramas might be occasionally introduced by way of change, but exclusively such as could be performed with good effect. Above all Shakspeare must be avoided! The pomp and pageantry in all the plays of the “immortal bard,” the great number of his characters, the eternal changing of his scenes in high contempt of the unities, and the consummate skill which is required to impersonate his characters with spirit, without running into bombast, render his plays rarely endurable in the London theatres; notwithstanding even the modern adaptations, which are disregarded here.
In a word, to ensure success, the manager must never attempt anything beyond his ability to sustain. The community are very willing to pay for a little dramatic recreation; but as the charm of novelty will be inoperative henceforward, they will assuredly not be satisfied without a combination of effective management, with a degree of talent on the part of the performers, that shall not be wholly below the representation of such pieces as may be selected for their performance.
Launceston Advertiser, 2 July 1835
TO THE EDITOR.
It having been basely insinuated, particularly in Hobart Town, that Mr. Cameron has incurred his present difficulties through extravagance on his part, and not through disappointments, permit me in your Newspaper to contradict the representations.
Mr. Cameron has been misled and disappointed as to the time the Theatre in Hobart Town would have been completed; to which source alone are to be attributed his present embarrassments. When the new Theatre was first mentioned, it was promised, by many in Hobart Town, to be ready at the conclusion of the first season in Launceston — nearly ten months ago; and which induced Mr. Cameron to incur many expenses to enable him to open his season in Hobart Town with the most efficient company he could possibly obtain. The Theatre was not ready as promised; which caused many other expenses we otherwise could have avoided.
I am sure that both Mr. Cameron and myself have done everything in our power to maintain the Theatre, on both sides of the Island, in the highest state of respectability; and it is too bad that any evil disposed persons should be allowed to misrepresent his affairs to his prejudice with his supporters, and even to the annoyance of our domestic circle. He is now suffering for part of those expenses, which, if time is given, (as it ought to be) he will ever feel himself bound to liquidate; but he is too proud to benefit himself by any Act, if even he could obtain his freedom immediately. By inserting the above you will confer a favor.
I remain, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Launceston, October 22, 1835.
Launceston Advertiser, 29 October 1835
MR. S. CAMERON begs to inform the Ladies and Gentlemen of Launceston, that he has relinquished all connexion with the present Theatre. He is compelled to do so principally from the disgraceful manner in which some of his performers have behaved in his absence. He now begs most respectfully to return his sincere thanks for the uniform support rendered to the Theatre by the people of Launceston, and is sorry to add that from the many advantages that have been taken of him by many of his establishment and to which he has hitherto been obliged to submit, his family have been prevented from enjoying the benefits derived from the kind patronage of the people of Launceston.
October 26, 1835.
Launceston Advertiser, 5 November 1835
THE THEATRE.—An address from Mr. Jacobs the comedian, in answer to a very ill advised published letter from Mr. Cameron, has been forwarded to us for insertion. We forbear to insert it, out of the respect to Mrs. Cameron, in which we believe that lady is generally held. Mr. Jacobs however seems to have abundantly vindicated both himself and his theatrical brethren. We understand he is comfortably settled in the British Hotel at Launceston. Mr. Cameron has returned to Hobart Town, to resume her attempts where she commenced, at Mr. Whitaker’s very pretty little theatre, quite large enough however for the play going demand of this town, for years to come, and we most sincerely wish her every success.
The Tasmanian, 4 December 1835
That’s the last mention of the theatre. A few years later, the building became the city’s hospital and was later demolished to build the terrace houses now there.
Some idea, is entertained of finishing the Theatre at Hobart Town. The Theatre already there, and now in operation, one would imagine to be sufficient for the amusement of the gentry. The Theatre in Launceston did not benefit the population, and we hope not to see another in this Town, until we are in better circumstance to maintain the expense of LUXURIES! It strikes us that before twelve mpnths are passed over, the whole of us will have reason to estimate the value of even one shilling.
Cornwall Chronicle, 18 June 1836