Arts Venues in Dumfries and Galloway

Theatre Royal ~ Dumfries

Theatre Royal, Dumfries

The Theatre Royal, Dumfries was built in 1792 and is the oldest working theatre in Scotland.   Now owned by the Guild of Players who bought it in 1959, the Theatre is run on a voluntary basis by the members of the Guild.

The Theatre is funded entirely by Guild membership subscriptions, and by box office receipts. It does not currently receive any grant-aid towards running costs.  The Guild's aim is to promote the tradition of live theatre in Dumfries, for the enjoyment of members and the public alike.

The theatre is the venue for the Guild of Players' own productions and for performances from visiting companies.  It is used extensively as a venue for Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival, and for Dumfries Music Festival and the Dumfries Musical Theatre Company.

The Guild of Players was founded as an amateur dramatic company in 1913. It has put on a season of plays for all but six of the years since then. There were no productions between 1915 and 1919, and none in 1944.

The Guild presents a season of three plays (each running for four nights) and a pantomime (running for a fortnight) every year. Every job, from directing the plays to serving the coffee in the intervals, is undertaken voluntarily by Guild members.

Membership is open to everyone and brings entitlement to priority ticket booking at a discounted price, for those who wish to support the Theatre as members of the audience. For those who wish to become actively involved there are jobs for all interests and age groups.

The Junior Guild is a youth theatre with a difference: two groups meet each week to look at how theatre is created, from improvisation to scene work, stage combat to costume. This young theatre company explores contemporary theatre in an exciting and interesting way. with children and young people aged 7 - 18 gathering to explore issues that affect them and the world in which they live.

A Children's Theatre (P3 - P7) meets each Tuesday for workshops focussing on developing drama skills through games, exercises and mini productions.

The Youth Theatre (S1 - S6) meets each Thursday for workshops concentrates on developing drama skills in a wide variety of contexts, enabling a clear understanding on how to create or produce theatre.

Bars and Catering

The licensed bar is open in the Hopkin Room before the show and during the interval.

Hire of Theatre

The Theatre may be hired by other organisations for rehearsals, shows and conferences.

Wardrobe Hire

Costumes and fancy dress outfits from the Guild's vast wardrobe of clothes and accessories are available for hire.


Louise Fontanelle (1773 -99). Benefit Night at the Theatre Royal, Dumfries  26th November 1792

Robert Burns greatly admired her acting and wrote for her 'The Rights of Woman', a prologue to be given by her on her Benefit Night.

With the Prologue, he sent a letter to her:

'In such a bad world as ours, those who add to the scanty sum of our pleasures, are positively our benefactors. To you, Madam, on our humble Dumfries boards, I have been more indebted for entertainment, than ever I was in prouder Theatres. Your charms as a woman would ensure applause to the most indifferent Actress, and your theatrical talents would secure admiration to the plainest figure.

For further information, please follow this LINK


For further information on Robert Burns and his subscription to the Theatre Royal project, please follow this LINK

Theatre Royal, Dumfries

 In 1790, the actor manager George Stephen Sutherland, who had been playing with a company at the Old Assembly Room in the George Hotel approached interested people in the area with the intention of raising subscriptions for a purpose-built theatre. Among those involved was Robert Burns, then resident at Ellisland Farm, just north of Dumfries.

In the autumn of 1792, the Rood Fair, the Circuit Court and the meetings of the Dumfries and Galloway and Caledonian Hunts were held in Dumfries and the new theatre was opened on time at a cost of some £800.  The design, by Thomas Boyd of Dumfries, was based on that of the Theatres Royal in Bristol and Edinburgh.

The Theatre or the New Theatre, seating between five and six hundred, opened on Saturday 29th September, under the management of Sutherland's partner, John Brown Williamson, from the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Among those who appeared at the theatre in the early years were Mrs Kemble, Edmund Kean, William Charles Macready (whose father was the lessee for four years), Miss Jarman from Covent Garden, Samuel Phelps and Ellen Tree.

Burns continued his association with the theatre until his death in 1796, writing the prologue "The Rights of Woman" for Miss Louise Fontanelle's Benefit Night and, in 1794, a tribute to Maria Theresa Kemble (1774 - 1838) as "Yarico" in the opera "lnkle and Yarico".

The first reference to the theatre under its present name is to be found in an advertisement in the "Dumfries and Galloway Courier" in 1811.

Improvement of the stage in 1830 and a radical renovation in 1876, by Phipps, increased the seating capacity to over a thousand, enhanced the amenity of the theatre for players and patrons.

Acquisition of the theatre by the Guild of Players in 1959, at a time when demolition seemed a likely prospect, was followed by an eighteen month period of reconstruction and a formal opening by Sir Compton Mackenzie, whose mother's company, "The Compton Comedy Company" had been the last of the touring troupes to perform there. The first Guild production mounted in the theatre in October 1960 was 'What Every woman Knows' by J.M. Barrie.

Kemble, thou cur'st my unbelief
For Moses and his rod;
At Yarico's sweet nor of grief
The rock with tears had flow'd.

Robert Burns 1794

Theatre Tickets:

Bookings can be made at
Box Office
DGAA, Midsteeple, High Street, Dumfries
Tel: 01387 253383.
Credit card booking available.