It doesn't actually feature that particular theatre, which dates from 1907. It began its life as the Hippodrome, became the Civic Theatre, and is now resuming its original name. Full details of its history can be found here.
This newspaper clipping features the Theatre Royal, which was in Northgate. It closed in 1937 and the building was later the Regal Cinema; it is now the Odeon.
It is a report from the celebrated theatrical newspaper, The Era, and it comes from a section called Provincial Theatricals: From Our Own Correspondents:
The Era, 22 April 1893
THEATRE ROYAL.– Lessees, Messrs A and P Milton; Manager, Mr W E Potts.– Messrs Vaughan and Carlton's well-selected company occupy the boards with Fenton Mackay's new realistic drama entitled Spellbound, and are attracting large audiences. Mr Harrington Reynolds makes an admirable George Westland, and Mr W J Vaughan does well as Count Santos. Miss Helen McCulloch wins the sympathies of the audience as Helen Westland. Mr Arthur Kingsley is capital as Mr Harry Melton, and the comedy element is safe in the hands of Mr George Sennett and Miss Mary Rivington.
Though Spellbound is billed as "realistic", it nevertheless includes that reliable and not very realistic stock figure of the drama, the Adventuress. This one, together with her brother Count Santos, wields a mysterious power over the unfortunate George Westland.LORD GEORGE SANGER pitched his enormous tent in Darlington on Wednesday, and gave two excellent performances. The afternoon programme attracted a large audience and in the evening there were about 5,000 present to witness the doings of the various artists, all very clever.
I don't know where the famous Lord George Sanger pitched his enormous circus tent, I'm afraid – but perhaps it was the Show Field in South Park.
Following up on George Sennett – in whose hands the comedy element of Spellbound had been safe – I found a sad but interesting story of the vicissitudes of stage life.
George had been in the news for rather less flattering reasons nearly 20 years earlier, when he was about 27 years old.
In November 1874, newspapers across the country carried the lively story of his argument with a fellow actor, J H Clynds. They were performing together at the Grecian Theatre in City Road, London and were now appearing together in the magistrates' court. Sennett was the complainant, alleging that Clynds had attacked him.
Clynds was the star, playing the juvenile leads, while Sennett specialised in the heavies and the villains. Every night in their current piece, Sennett had to die and Clynds had told him that he should be doing it lower down the stage.
Sennett retorted that he had received his orders from the authors and he wouldn't be taught what to do by Clynds. The argument in their dressing room grew very heated, Clynds telling Sennett that he used idiotic language and Sennett retorting that Clynds was a liar.
On cross-examination, Sennett said that he hadn't used a vulgar adjective as well as the word liar and that he wasn't in the habit of bullying and blustering in the theatre. Witnesses who had heard the racket were divided, I think according to whose side they were taking – the manager and author of the piece, for example, said that he thought Sennett was a blackguard.
At the close of the performance, Clynds waited for Sennett outside the theatre and demanded an apology – when none was forthcoming, he hit Sennett on the head with a thin walking cane. Sennett told the court that he couldn't explain how his own, heavier, stick came to be broken as well and that he didn't know if he had hit Clynds back. He said he hadn't pushed Clynds and told him to go to a very warm place.
The magistrate said that Sennett ought to have accepted the apology that Clynds had written after receiving the court summons, and bound Clynds over to keep the peace.
By 1893, when Sennett was performing in Darlington, his career must already have been on the slide. He had worked for a good many years at the Grecian Theatre in London, but now he was touring. Seven years later, in 1900, things had got much worse.
Sennett was now 53 years old and the work had dried up. He and his wife Ada, who had been on the stage herself as an actor and dancer, moved to Manchester. They found employment for a time, George as an extra at the Theatre Royal and Ada in the wardrobe department of the Queen's Theatre, but by May they were both out of work and had become very depressed. One Sunday afternoon, their landlady at 58 Cumberland Street found them both unconscious on the bed, with three empty laudanum bottles on the table.
George died, but Ada was taken to the Royal Infirmary and eventually recovered. Unfortunately, her situation was still hopeless and six months later The Era reported that she was close to starvation and it was thought that "those who know her and knew her husband will not forget her in her time of need".
But this tactful little piece was not echoed by the report at the same time in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. On 5 December 1900 it gave details of Ada's appearance in the magistrates' court under the headline
One of Life's Wrecks
Ada Sennett "an old woman, of unkempt and emaciated appearance, and miserably clad, was charged with being drunk and incapable in Quay-street, on Monday afternoon ... she has been assisted at various times by prominent people in Manchester theatrical circles, but is still in a very poverty-stricken condition."She was discharged and advised to give up alcohol or she would find herself in gaol. She objected strongly to the suggestion that she should go to the Workhouse.
Just before Christmas she was up in court again and, as she wouldn't promise to reform her ways, she was sent to gaol for 14 days. The newspaper report stated that she was 70 years old, but she was actually only 57 when she died in the spring of 1901.