The Theatre, originally named the "Alhambra", was built in 1928 with a two fold purpose in mind. It was mainly a cinema but it also had a limited stage and dressing room facility. Latterly known as the "State" cinema, the building was closed for demolition in September 1968. However, with the demise of the "Theatre Royal" (previously named the "Palace Theatre") where most amateur musical and operatic societies were performing, Dundee Corporation, under much pressure, re-opened the building in November 1969 and the "Whitehall Theatre" came into being.

The Alhambra in the 1930s

In 1982 the "Whitehall" was again in precarious circumstance when the Local Authority (then Dundee District Council), decided to close the theatre and channel all their support into the new Dundee Repertory Theatre. However, the new "Rep" could not cater for the local societies in seating capacity or dressing room accommodation and the projected rental went far beyond the means of the amateurs. In addition the "Rep" did not really want the amateurs, as it would mean losing at least 10 weeks or more of each year plus a fight for prime time at Christmas for Pantomime.

Early in 1982 following many meetings the local societies decided to set up an Amateur Theatre Trust to investigate the position. Subsequently it was agreed that, in order to take advantage of charitable status for taxation and fund raising, the theatre should be bought. The theatre would be owned by the Whitehall Theatre Trust who, in turn, would lease it for a nominal rental to the Whitehall Theatre (Dundee) Limited who would run the theatre on a day to day basis. Any surplus money made by the Company would go to the Trust for re-investment in the Theatre.

A number of responsible personalities were invited to become members of the Trust and the Company was set up with 15 members comprising of Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Technical/Stage Director and one representative from each of the member societies. A public appeal for funds was launched on the 3rd November 1982 and soon the target of £50,000 was passed and the final total of £80,000 was reached.

The Theatre was purchased from the Dundee District Council for £20,000 with entry on 30th November 1982. Along with the theatre the purchase included the attached but derelict Caledonian Halls and these were refurbished with materials from the local Hydro Electric power station which was being demolished. the funds were used for part of this job and the labour was supplied by Community Industry. At this time the halls were converted to provide at ground level a kitchen, showers, toilets, dressing rooms (4), a large rehearsal room, a band room and a Board Room. On the first floor a scenery dock was built to enable scenery to be trucked on stage. In the theatre the stage was extended, the whole building painted both inside and out and the lighting and sound equipment was updated.

This policy of upgrading and maintaining the building is continuous. In recent years a new Coffee Bar was added thus improving facilities for patrons of the Theatre.





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© Downfield MusicalSociety 2007