IT HAS been entertaining Glasgow audiences for 150 years, as a theatre, opera house and even a television studio that played host to the Beatles.

It has survived two world wars and three fires and is now the city’s oldest surviving theatre.

The grand old lady of Hope Street, the Theatre Royal, is marking its celebratory year with an assortment of activities, including premieres, showcases, specially themed tours and a digital memory sharing campaign.

The venue has a rich and interesting history, as stage doorkeeper Gary Painter, who has worked there for 20 years, explains:

“There were originally two main Theatre Royals, one on Queen Street and one in St Enoch Square, which was demolished for the station to be built,” explains Gary, 43, who is from Queen’s Park. “It was a real honour to be allowed to call your theatre ‘royal’ and usually the patent was attached to the proprietor rather than the building.

“The first theatre on the present site was designed by George Bell and called Bayliss’ Coliseum Theatre and Opera House, and it opened on November 28, 1867.”

Granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria shortly afterwards, it changed its name to the Theatre Royal, but in 1879, it was completely destroyed by fire.

It was rebuilt to the design of London architect, Charles John Phipps and reopened on October 26, 1880, under the management of Miss Marie Litton.

Renowned theatre managers Messrs. Howard and Wyndham took possession in July 1888, shortly before they built the King’s Theatre in nearby Bath Street in 1905. Their first staging starred Henry Irving and The Lyceum Company in Faust.

On March 1, 1895, the theatre was once again destroyed by fire but six months later, it reopened its doors once again.

“The building has changed a lot – bits have been added on and taken away and tidied up, so it’s really like a collection of buildings on the one spot,” says Gary, who has amassed an impressive collection of old programmes, photos and memorabilia from the theatre.

“In 1956 the theatre was sold to Scottish Television for conversion into a studio complex and ironically, it was that spell – until the 1970s – that saved it as a theatre.

“Many of the theatres and playhouses around at the time, like the Empire and the Alhambra, closed down as audiences fell and interest tailed off.

“Television saved the Theatre Royal.”

Like all old buildings, the theatre is rumoured to have its own ghost - Nora, a cleaner who threw herself off the circle after failing an audition - but Gary has never seen or heard from her.

“People report ghostly sightings and strange noises, so you never know...” he laughs.

Shows like The One O’Clock Gang were filmed in the Theatre Royal, in front of live audiences.

Gary smiles: “A visitor to the theatre once told me that because the news was filmed straight after The One O’Clock Gang, and there wasn’t time for everyone to get out before it started, audiences were often told they had to sit very quietly so as not to disturb the recording.

“It’s really funny to think all these people, who just a moment before had been laughing and cheering, having to stay silent until the news bulletin was done and they could file out!”

In 1975 the Theatre Royal became the permanent home of Scottish Opera and 30 years later, the national company signed over management of the venue to Ambassador Theatre Group on a 25 year lease. Scottish Opera continues to own the building.

An extensive refurbishment followed, in 2014, to include first-class education and event facilities.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary, audiences, employees and performers are being encouraged to share their memories of in the form of stories and pictures of the theatre - and here at the Evening Times, Thanks for the Memories would love to hear them too.

Email to share your recollections and photos in the newspaper.