The theatre in Grahamston, opened in 1764, was replaced by one in Dunlop Street in 1782. Shakespeare was its staple, along with the work of other English dramatists such as George Farquhar. Two Scots plays recurred over the decades: The Gentle Shepherd (1725) by Allan Ramsay and The Douglas (1749) by John Home. The pattern changed in the 1820s when stage versions of Walter Scott's novels became highly popular.
Drama was not only performed in the theatre. For example, in 1793 Lee Lewis's circus included the comic scenes from Henry IV, and actors came from London to give recitations and songs in the Star Inn at New Year in 1804. A circus in 1805 included not only the usual equestrian display, but also fireworks and a pantomime. In 1822 a circus gave a horseback performance of Tobias Smollett's novel Peregrine Pickle.
In 1805 a rival theatre was built in Queen Street and two years later the Dunlop Street building became a warehouse. It was rebuilt in 1822 and competed with the Queen Street theatre until the latter was burnt in 1829. Its demise shows the precarious nature of theatre life. The gas company would only light the theatre if payment was made in advance, and the theatre could only do one performance at a time. A gas man turned on the supply each evening; but on one occasion he got drunk and left his son to turn it off. Result: conflagration. For eighteen months a temporary theatre operated in York Street, south of Argyle Street, and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro was performed there, one of the earliest grand opera performances in the city.
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