1878: May 16th The Colonist newspaper gave an admiring description of the theatre as it was nearing completion and states it to have been built ”by a company, chiefly composed of members of the Society of Oddfellows”. The titles show the owner of part of the land in 1878 as Samuel Bolton. Sam Bolton sold to the trustees of the Loyal Howard and Loyal Nelson Lodges in 1884 and as manager until the trustees sold it in 1905. The opening night was on the 18th July that year.
1890’s: The Theatre Royal was in frequent use with a great variety of entertainment among them melodrama which was very popular at that time, boxing and the first intimations of film and projection, which was later nearly to eclipse theatres everywhere.
The Montague-Turner Opera Company staged five different operas over five nights! Quite a staging challenge as the fly tower had not yet been built over the stage. Between Saturday October 15th 1892 and the following Thursday, Nelsonians could see Maritana, Trovatore, Bohemian Girl, Faust and Martha all for as little as 10/-.
1934: Nelson Repertory Club was formed in October.
1944: We became an incorporated society and took the plunge to buy the Theatre Royal for 2,250 pounds, thereby saving it as a theatre. Hugh Leggatt, Gordon Kirk, J.W. Russell – these were some of the men behind this enterprising move. Over the decades much love, time and effort was put into keeping the the theatre going whilst trying to deal with refurbishment along the way. We thank those members from that time whose tireless efforts, love and commitment kept the theatre going. Despite passionate fundraising efforts time continued to ravage the theatre and finally a bold decision had to be taken.
2001: In order to gain maximum funding for restoration it was deemed necessary to form an Historic Theatre Trust on 23rd August; Repertory then sold the theatre to the Trust for a token $10. The agreement gives Repertory the right to occupy in perpetuity; rehearsal space, committee room, archive room, wardrobe and construction shed. The agreement at that time guaranteed the option of nine weeks theatre hire, paying for power only.
2005: The theatre was closed for major refurbishment. Every aspect was covered in re-creating the original glorious Victorian décor; hand painted wallpaper, the dress circle seats were restored and re-upholstered, all to bring back the historic atmosphere of this beautiful building. The Auditorium and Front of House was returned to its former glory. Among other new additions were the dressing rooms, wardrobe, orchestra pit, and the outstanding counterweighted Fly Tower. The $6.4m project was completed in 2010 and the Theatre Royal has since become one of NZ’s busiest community theatres.
2010: 31st May, the theatre re-opened with a gala opening festival running for two weeks. Many of the 342 seats were sponsored by local individuals and groups. It is wonderful to have such amazing community support.
Today: The committee of Nelson Repertory Theatre continue to work in conjunction with the Historic Theatre Trust to maintain the mutual connection to this outstanding building,
Nelsonians benefit from having a beautiful heritage theatre which attracts international and national touring companies, while maintaining it’s community roots.
Nelson Repertory aims to provide a wide genre repertoire of theatre with affordable, quality productions. It is our intention to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming and mentoring members of the community to become involved in all aspects of theatre.
Nelson Repertory Theatre Inc has its creative home in the heart of the Theatre Royal at 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson.