In Search of an Identity: The Changing Fortunes of Liverpool’s Theatre Royal, 1772 – 1855

Alexandra Appleton

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

2706 Downloads (Pure)


My thesis provides the first analytical study of the Theatre Royal Liverpool from 1772 to 1855. It offers a new and original contribution to the increasing volume of provincial theatre studies in Britain. Liverpool’s theatrical history has hitherto been left in the annals of time, despite the port’s important national and international position during the long nineteenth century. I believe that by examining Liverpool’s theatrical and cultural identity during this period, we gain a fresh and important perspective on its complex and evolving regional character. Much has been written on the port’s economic and commercial history but such an analytical study of its theatrical productions and performance history provides an incredibly important cultural insight in to Liverpool’s developing maritime identity from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century.

I have focused my research primarily on events occurring at the town’s Theatre Royal as this was the only theatre to exist throughout this whole period. Although little is known about the history of the Theatre Royal and the pivotal role it had in the cultural evolution of the present day city, I believe that its pattern of productions, fortunes and managerial decisions provide a fascinating insight into the changing character of this North West port.

This thesis brings a new dimension to the well-known historical character of Liverpool by examining the evolution of theatrical practice within the port. Beginning with the town’s application for a royal patent in the early 1770s, I explore Liverpool’s dramatic engagement with naval warfare, changes in attitude to the slave trade, local social decline, expanding transatlantic links, and changes in theatrical taste. My thesis concludes with the establishment of Liverpool’s celebrated global reputation in the mid-nineteenth century. I use playbills, newspaper reports, archival resources and contemporary narratives to examine the role of the Theatre Royal in Liverpool’s cultural development and self-conception.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • John, Juliet, Supervisor
Award date1 Mar 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Theatre, Liverpool, Regional

Cite this