Since opening on Christmas Eve in 1904, His Majesty's Theatre has become one of Western Australia's most-loved heritage icons.
A stunning example of Edwardian era architecture, the building is the design masterpiece of architect William Wolfe and contractor Gustav Liebe, who constructed the theatre for Perth businessman and one-time Lord Mayor of Perth, Thomas G Molloy.
Built during the Gold Rush boom of the early 20th Century at a cost of 42,000 pounds, His Majesty's Theatre and its adjoining hotel took around two years to complete.
Borrowing architectural elements from the 19th Century theatres of England and Europe, this magnificent creation was described in the theatre's opening night programme as "among the finest of its kind in the Commonwealth".
One of the theatre's most impressive features at the time was the dome roof, which was designed to improve ventilation in the auditorium. The dome slid open sideways so that on a typically warm summer evening, the audience could benefit from the cooling effects of the open roof.
His Majesty's Theatre was named after the reigning British monarch of 1904, King Edward VII. It is believed to be the only remaining working Edwardian theatre in Australia, and is one of only two remaining His Majesty's Theatre's in the world.
Refurbishment of His Majesty's Theatre 1978-1980
From 1904 to the late 1970's, His Majesty's Theatre in Perth was privately owned by a succession of entrepreneurs.
When the Western Australian government purchased the building in 1977, the Theatre was in much need of major structural improvements. It took two years and over $11 million to refurbish and restore the building to the modern, yet aesthetically traditional facility it is today.
During the refurbishment, the magnificent marble staircase was carefully relocated from the stalls entrance to the western end of the stalls foyer, and the dome roof, which once opened to improve ventilation within the auditorium, was permanently sealed.
The hotel that once shared the site was physically separated from the Theatre during the refurbishment and now provides backstage facilities for touring companies, and most importantly, is the administrative and rehearsal home to both the West Australian Opera and West Australian Ballet.
Museum of Performing Arts
Throughout its colourful and exciting history, His Majesty's Theatre has hosted a myriad of performance genres - from ballet to contemporary dance, opera to musical theatre, vaudeville to stand-up comedy, Shakespearean drama to pantomime and more.
Performers who have graced the stage at 'The Maj' include: Dame Nellie Melba, Anna Pavlova, Gladys Moncrieff, Dame Margot Fonteyn and Sir Robert Helpmann, as well as Academy Award winners Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Sir John Gielgud, Claudette Colbert, Rex Harrison and Geoffrey Rush.
These performers, and thousands more who have performed at His Majesty's Theatre since 1904, have all contributed to the cultural and social livelihood of Western Australia. In a fitting celebration of this, in February 2001, His Majesty's Theatre opened the Museum of Performing Arts.
The Museum houses more than 30,000 catalogued items of theatre memorabilia collected by the theatre's historian. Items such as glamorous costumes, photographs, press clippings, scripts, scores and other historic pieces are publicly exhibited at the Museum, DownStairs at the Maj, with a new exhibition to view every six to eight weeks. The oldest item in the Museum collection dates back to 1854 - a beautiful silk programme from a Perth performance of amateur theatricals.
Individuals and groups are welcome to visit the Museum of Performing Arts during open hours from Monday to Friday. Entry to the Museum is by gold coin donation. Wheelchair access is via the theatre's main entrance.