A State First
The Theatre Royal and Hotel Metropole was the first purpose-built theatre in Western Australia. Then one of the city’s largest and most magnificent buildings, it was built for Thomas Molloy, builder, speculator and local politician.
Born in Toronto, Thomas Molloy’s family migrated to the penal colony of Western Australia in 1862 where his father, John, had become a pensioner guard. Once Thomas had finishing his schooling, he began work at the Cooperative Stores in Perth, where he rose to the position of manager. Later in his career he became a successful baker and one of the largest landowners in Perth.
Molloy was elected to the Perth City Council in 1884 and in the early 1890s became the Member for Perth in the Legislative Council. In 1908-09 and again in 1911-12 he was the Mayor of Perth.
A Custom-built Theatre
Although the Town Hall, St George’s Hall and, sometimes, the Swan River Mechanics’ Institute were used to stage live theatre productions, the need for a purpose-built theatre in Perth had been long felt in the community and, as a result, the news that Molloy was planning to build Perth’s first theatre was received with much enthusiasm.
The Theatre Royal was opened on the night of Easter Monday, 19 April 1897. It should have opened the previous Saturday night, but was prevented from doing so “owing to the late arrival of S. S. Rockton with the actors and scenery on board”. The opening performance was of the ‘Silver King’ by the Stanford & Barnes Company.