The Theatre Royal was built on the western side of Liverpool’s Williamson Square and opened on the 5 June 1772 with a production of the play Mahomet.
Patrons complained about the original building and the theatre was rebuilt in 1802 with a circular frontage by local architect John Foster.
The Theatre Royal attracted stars of the age from across the country. The great Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean appeared on-stage in 1815 and two years later the world famous clown Grimaldi appeared as part of a gruelling national tour.
During the Victorian era, Charles Dickens, Irving, Paganini and Blondin, the famed tight-rope walker, all appeared at the Theatre Royal Liverpool.
The theatre continued to stage both plays and opera and had a monopoly in the city until the nearby Star – now the Playhouse – opened.
The Theatre Royal went into decline and in the 1890’s it was acquired for use as a cold store.
The building continued to be used a cold store until it was eventually demolished in the mid 1960s.
Charles Dickens and The Theatre Royal.
Aided by William Charles Macready, Charles Dickens and his friends had originally mounted a benefit production of Every Man In His Humour in London in 1845. Dickens took the role of Bobadill; the noted illustrator George Cruikshank was Cob; and his best friend John Forster played Kitely. The production was successful enough to be repeated three or four times over the next two years including this show in Liverpool as part of a small tour (which also included a performance at the Manchester Theatre Royal in the same month).
Nothing remains of the theatre, which was located in Williamson Square. The Playhouse theatre remains in the square.