Since way back in 1826, crowds have been entertained on the spot where the Royal Court Theatre proudly stands today.

In the early 19th century it was John Cooke’s royal Amphitheatre of Arts – a home to circuses, operas, plays and concerts.

One of the most popular acts was the extraordinary equestrian performer and circus proprietor Pablo Fanque.

Marti Webb and Fagin’s gang record an advert for the musical Oliver! in May 1966

Marti Webb and Fagin’s gang record an advert for the musical Oliver! in May 1966

He delighted Liverpool audiences so much that the Beatles immortalised him in the song Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! on the Sergeant Pepper album.

The current Royal Court Theatre building was opened in October 1938 after fire destroyed the original structure dating from 1881.

It escaped damage during World War II and continued to stage plays and productions through the Blitz.

Moira Lister with Jon Pertwee as the jester in See You Inside, October 1962

Moira Lister with Jon Pertwee as the jester in See You Inside, October 1962

Well-known artists such as Ivor Novello, John Gielgud and Richard Burton performed there during the war years, as well as ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn.

The Royal Ballet’s principal ballerina made her last visit to the Royal Court in February 1970, bringing the curtain down on nearly four decades of dancing in the city.

Judi Dench made her professional stage debut at the Royal Court at the age of 22 playing Ophelia in the 1957 Old Vic production of Hamlet.

Hundreds of children audition to be Diddymen in Ken Dodd’s Laughter Spectacular, November 1970

Hundreds of children audition to be Diddymen in Ken Dodd’s Laughter Spectacular, November 1970

Dancer and singer Jessie Matthews was a regular visitor too. Our photo shows her on stage with Sonnie Hale in the new play A Nest of Robins in July 1957.

One of the biggest names of the 1950s was film, stage and TV actress Moira Lister. She starred in the 1962 Royal Court production See You Inside.

Lister appeared in the movies The Cruel Sea in 1953 and The Deep Blue Sea in 1955. She was also a regular on the BBC radio comedy Hancock’s Half Hour.

Paul McCartney and Wings choose the Royal Court to launch their UK tour, November 1979

Paul McCartney and Wings choose the Royal Court to launch their UK tour, November 1979

Her co-star at the Royal Court was comic actor Jon Pertwee, who made a name for himself on radio and TV in programmes like The Navy Lark, Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge.

Another familiar face from the 1960s, disc jockey Pete Murray, starred in the musical Scapa! which had its premiere at the Royal Court in January 1962.

Murray was also an accomplished actor. He was a gold medalist at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

Pete Murray, left, in the premiere of the musical Scapa! at the Royal Court, January 1962

Pete Murray stars in Scapa at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool. Circa 1962.

Scapa! was Britain’s first all-male musical. It was based on Hugh Hastings’ play Seagulls Over Sorrento, which told the story of sailors testing a top secret torpedo on a Scottish island.

The timeless classic Oliver! came to the Royal Court in May 1966 with Marti Webb in the role of Nancy. Our photo shows her taping an advert for the show with members of Fagin’s gang.

Nearly 1,000 children queued up outside the theatre to audition for the Ken Dodd Laughter Spectacular in November 1970. They all wanted to play Diddymen!

Margot Fonteyn takes a bow on her final visit to the Royal Court Theatre, February 1970

Margot Fonteyn takes a bow on her final visit to the Royal Court Theatre, February 1970

Finally, Paul McCartney and Wings chose the Royal Court – where else? – to launch their 1979 Back to the Egg tour. The band played 19 dates across the UK in November and December.

*Many more unmissable photos feature in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1960s. Now available from our online shop.

 

Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale in A Nest of Robins at the Royal Court Theatre, July 1957

Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale in A Nest of Robins at the Royal Court Theatre, July 1957