Adelaide’s Theatrical Heritage – A Journey Through Historic Venues

Adelaide’s historic buildings have been home to theatre, public meeting and musical performances. Whether it’s the iconic Thebarton Theatre, built in the 1920s or Fowler’s Live, the city’s much-loved live music venue which opened twelve years ago, its historic buildings have always been at the heart of the community.

Explore the history behind these venues in this self-guided walk with brochures available at each plaque site.

The Queen’s Theatre

Five years after European settlement, the first purpose-built theatre opened in Adelaide on Light Square. The original incarnation was built by Jewish former convict brothers Emanuel and Vaiben Solomon. It closed in 1842 but was reopened as the Royal Victoria Theatre with a new facade a year later.

It remained Adelaide’s only theatre until the opening of the larger Theatre Royal in Hindley Street in 1868. Afterwards the Queen’s was used for a range of purposes before becoming a warehouse and then a car park.

Today Her Majesty’s Theatre in Grote Street is one of Australia’s finest venues, a stunning example of heritage design blending with modern architecture and seating up to 1467 across three levels. It’s also home to Vitalstatistix, an independent theatre company that produces more than 36 shows a year.

The Adelaide Town Hall

The grand Adelaide Town Hall with its regal clock tower is a major feature on King William Street. This heritage building hosts a range of notable concerts and events throughout the year.

The building’s interior is equally impressive with its magnificent design, Victorian furnishings and incredible acoustics. A virtual tour lets you explore the halls and inner areas of this spectacular venue that is a key part of Adelaide’s cultural history.

The Town Hall’s original pipe organ was a Hill & Son instrument erected in 1875. A rebuilding attempt in 1969 was deemed to be a failure and the instrument was retired, finding a new home in the Barossa Regional Gallery Hall at Tanunda. A replacement from Walker & Sons now graces the building.

The Crown & Sceptre Hotel

The handsome five storey facade is all that remains of this theatre which opened in 1916. It was named the Grand Picture Theatre, but in the 1930’s it was changed to the Mayfair. Later still it became the Sturt Theatre and was capable of seating up to 900 Adelaidians.

The Crown and Sceptre Hotel is a short stroll from Kensington underground station. It offers a range of convenient facilities, including coffee/tea making equipment and smoke detectors in every room.

The bar offers a range of refreshing drinks and a relaxing atmosphere. It features a variety of interesting decor, such as framed vintage Radio Times covers. The hotel provides free WiFi in public areas. All rooms come with a shower. They also have a work desk and a flat-screen TV.

The Exeter Hotel

After the theatre closed, the building took on different lives, and today is a venue for music, movies and special events. It was the first large scale public venue in Adelaide to host both stage and movie performances.

The Capri Theatre is a not for profit cinema, run by a group of volunteers. Every ticket you buy supports our work to restore this beautiful heritage listed theatre and its world class Wurlitzer organ.

The Exeter Hotel is a house of style and comfort where shared cultural experiences blur the lines between local life and the hotel experience. Located close to the city centre the hotel is surrounded by restaurants, cultural spaces and residential streets. The $8 million redevelopment is set to include new front of house facilities and additional seating.

Fowler’s Live

With a rich musical history that spans more than a century, Adelaide is well-known as a city of music lovers. From the roar of Beatlemania to the emergence of Cold Chisel and many other legendary bands, the city’s venues have long been home to South Australia’s thriving music culture.

The York Theatre on the corner of Rundle and Gawler Place was a popular picture theatre when it opened in 1921. Its side walls were hand-painted with landscapes of Australasian scenery, and the auditorium held 2,000+ people.

This state-of-the-art theatre was once known as The Thebarton Theatre, and is a much-loved icon of our live music scene. Sit high up in the dress circle to admire its stunning balconies and rosette ceiling, or head downstairs to see a modern act like Em Rusciano or Xavier Rudd.

Nexus Arts

Nexus Arts is South Australia’s only multicultural arts association dedicated to culturally diverse arts presentation – with Nexus Live performance space and Nexus Art Gallery showing year round. They also offer venue hire.

Her Majesty’s Theatre, a magnificent proscenium theatre in Grote Street, was once described as ’Australia’s finest theatre’. After a $60 million rebuild guided by Adelaide Festival Centre and COX Architecture, Her Majesty’s now seats 1467 people.

The popular live music venue is set to undergo an $8 million redevelopment if plans are approved. Designed by JPE Design Studio, the new additions have been proposed to be low and curved, with an arched form that sits below the eaves of the existing Theatre building. The proposal has a sensitivity to the surrounding heritage architecture, and provides a flexible stage.

Rhino Room

The Rhino Room began life as a live music venue twelve years ago in a 140-year old building on Twin Street. Since then it’s become one of Adelaide’s most renowned venues, hosting the likes of Kate Miller-Heidke, Courtney Barnett and Passenger.

The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild has been at the heart of the State’s amateur theatre scene for more than seven decades, with a challenging repertoire that has seen many local theatre identities rise through its ranks. This exhibition traces the Guild’s rich history and includes posters, photographs and costumes.

Step back in time at Urrbrae House, a magnificent country home built by pastoralist Peter Waite in 1891. Assigned a status such as guest or servant, you’ll engage in late 19th century activities (morning tea included). Bookings essential.