FOUR YEARS AFTER EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT, THE FIRST PURPOSE-BUILT THEATRE, the Queen’s in Gilles Arcade, opened in Adelaide, then with a population of 8,400. It was built by Jewish former convict brothers, Emanuel and Vaiben Solomon, from Sydney. When a recession hit, the theatre building was leased to the government for use as court rooms and offices from 1843 until 1850.
When the economy improved, the original theatre building was still being used as the court house, Another was built alongside it in the Temple Tavern's billiard room and used for performances from 1846 to 1850. Its location next to a hotel and a court meant that all three created “drama and amusement of different kinds”.
After court buildings were built in Victoria Square, the former Queen's Theatre was refurbished with a new façade and reopened as the Royal Victoria Theatre in 1850. It entertained Adelaide audiences until 1867 when it was considered past its prime.
When the South Australian Satirist in 1867 revealed that a committee had decided to build a new theatre at the site at Peter Cumming’s drapery store in Hindley Street, it was adamant that all the property there would devalued by 100% – reflecting the reputation of theatres at that time.
After the Royal Victoria Theatre closed as a theatrical venue, it took on different lives, enabling it to survive to the present. It has been used as a dancing saloon, a mission, a horse bazaar and a car park, before once more becoming a theatrical venue from the late 1990s. A successful archaeological dig was carried out in the late 1980s to help determining the layout of the early theatre.
At the time of the Royal Victoria Theatre’s closure, other theatres or concert venues in the city emerged. White’s Rooms at 97 King William Street, established in 1856, became the place for concerts and recitals and survived until 1916 before being rebuilt as the Majestic Theatre (later used as a film theatre). This building was demolished in the early 1980s to be replaced by the Commonwealth Bank.
In the 1960s, Adelaide lost one of its great heritage theatres, the Royal, while the new Festival Centre, with its two main theatre venues, arrived.
PERFORMANCES IN PUBS PROVIDE 19th CENTURY COLONIAL SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S FIRST THEATRE
George Coppin, who opened Adelaide’s New Queen’s Theatrein Gilles Arcade, Adelaide, in 1846 and remodelled it as the Royal Victoria Theatre in 1850, has been dubbed “the father of Australian theatre”. A comic actor in England, Coppin arrived in Adelaide in 1846 after theatrical and hotel ventures in Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. In 1846, Coppin converted a billiard room into the New Queen’s Theatre and began his plays season with The King and the Comedian. Coppin played the comedian. Coppin transferred the theatre’s management to another English comic actor John Lazar. Coppin and Lazar refurbished the old Queen’s Theatre and renamed it the Royal Victoria Theatre. It was popular from 1850 until the Theatre Royal's debut in 1868. Around 1850, Coppin built the Semaphore Hotel and White Horse Cellars, a hotel and theatre in Port Adelaide. Coppin suffered losses in copper-mining investments and went broke with the exodus of his hotel and playhouse patrons to Victorian gold diggings. He also left in 1851 but had success finding gold, went back to theatre in Geelong, and returned to Adelaide in 1853 to pay his creditors. After a visit to England, Coppin returned to build several Melbourne theatres but had more financial trouble. Coppin became gradually prosperous from the 1860s as partner in the Theatre Royal chain, including Adelaide’s Hindley Street version.
John Lazar was an actor on and off the stage (including Adelaide mayor 1855-58); part of the small Jewish community that has such an impact on Adelaide. With English stage experience, including Covent Garden and Drury Lane, Lazar and wife and seven children sailed for Sydney in 1836. An typhus outbreak on the ship killed 100 including three of Lazar’s children. With English stage experience, Lazar acted, including Shakespearean parts, and managed theatres in Sydney before being engaged to play Othello in the opening play at the Queen’s Theatre in Gilles Arcade, Adelaide, in 1841. Lazar took over managing the Queen's Theatre but dismissed his actors and didn’t renew the lease after it lost money. After returning to managing theatres in Sydney, Lazar came back to Adelaide in 1848, enriched by copper discoveries at Burra and elsewhere. With George Coppin, Lazar remodelled the Queen's Theatre as the Royal Victoria Theatre, opened in 1850. Lazar's involvement in the theatre lessened. He set up a jeweller and silversmith business in Hindley Street, Adelaide, and became involved in civic affairs. He was elected alderman on Adelaide City Council in 1853, filling the vacancy left by Judah Moss Solomon, and later became mayor.
White’s assembly rooms, opened by George White at 97 King William Street, Adelaide, in 1856, became the city's main place for concerts, dinners, events and recitals for many years. White’s assembly rooms, designed by George Strickland Kingston and located with the Clarence Hotel, opened with a grand Masonic ball that became an annual event. Below the main hall was Bayston & Aldridge's restaurant, managed from 1858 by George Aldridge. Here, John McDouall Stuart was given a grand reception in 1863, after crossing the continent south to north. In 1868, Aldridge left to take over the restaurant associated with the new Theatre Royal in Hindley Street. F.W. Lindrum, father of Frederick and Walter, took over, naming it Shades. He set up the city’s finest billiard saloon in one of the large underground halls. It became Garner's Theatre in 1880 and passed through several hands as The Tivoli theatre, The Bijou theatre (used by Garrick Club theatre group), Star picture theatre and, in 1916, the Majestic threatre (later a film theatre) and hotel. The building was demolished in the 1980s to be replaced by the Commonwealth Bank building.
Three new theatres were built in the early 20th Century near the newly refurbished Central Market in 1901, despite the growing popularity of the cinema. They were the Empire (1909) on Grote Street; the King’s (1911), corner of Carrington and King William streets; and the Tivoli, (originally the Princess, now Her Majesty’s, in 1913) also on Grote Street, Adelaide. The Tivoli was the only survivor as an important live theatre. It is the last of the Tivoli Circuit theatres – Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth: major source of variety theatre and vaudeville for more than 70 years. Tivoli’s local and international musical, variety and comedy acts included vaudeville, dancers, acrobats, comedians and scantily-clad “Tivoli tappers”. The Empire had been built for vaudeville but it became a silent picture and then “talkie” cinema before a department store. Keeping the facade, it was gutted to be part of market shops in the 1970s. The King's Theatre met increasing demand for venues with technologies such as electric lighting. Seating 1500, it showcased comedy, sketch artists, pantomimes and boxing matches. The Kings was rebuilt in 1928 as two storeys. The bottom floor became a ballroom with a rubber buffered floor. When the theatre couldn’t sustain an audience, the primary focus became the ballroom.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN THEATRE SURVIVES WARS, DEPRESSION AND CINEMA IN 20th CENTURY
The Tivoli Gardens at Adelaide Oval in 1914-15 were one of Adelaide’s most novel theatrical ventures. The open-air theatre was used by performers during summer shutdowns of the new Tivoli Theatre on Grote Street, Adelaide. It enjoyed sold-out nights before World War I brought on a decline and in 1915 the military took over Adelaide Oval, including the Tivoli Gardens and the cricket grounds. Austral Gardens was an open-air theatre between 1914 and 1931 behind Ayers House on North Terrace, Adelaide, but used most extensively used for boxing, horse racing and dances.The other open-air operation was the Chinese Gardens in 1934-1937 behind the Exhibition Building on on North Terrace. Another open-air operation was the Chinese Gardens in 1934-1937 behind the Exhibition Building on North Terrace. The theatre was managed with the Theatre Royal and run by SA Theatres Ltd. Chinese Gardens was the only known open-air theatre in Australia to have a full-sized organ. The Canvas Theatre on Flinders Street, Adelaide, operated between 1939-40 presenting variety enterainment from groups such as Coleman’s Follies, Coles Variety group and Frisco Follies. In North Adelaide, The Studio Theatre opened in 1940 and closed in 1961. It was used as a training space and was one of Adelaide’s first locations for composing original music and choreographing original dances (mostly ballets).
Adelaide Repertory Theatre, oldest surviving amateur company in the southern hemisphere, started in piano teacher/composer Bryceson Treharne’s classroom at Elder Conservatorium in 1908. Treharne’s students, learning about European modern drama, decided, as The Adelaide Literary Theatre, to stage W.B. Yeats’ Land of Heart’s Desire and George Bernard Shaw’s A Man of Destiny in the conservatorium's north hall. In 1909-10, performances moved between Walkerville and Unley town halls. Treharne returned to Paris but the company prospered as The Adelaide Repertory Theatre from 1914. World War I and drought took their toll and, in 1920, an outbreak of bubonic plague closed Adelaide theatres. In 1921, The Rep came the closest to a final curtain. It survived, moving to Unley Town Hall in 1922 with Pygmalion a big success. In 1934, Theo Shall, a stage/screen star of Hollywood and Europe, directed Goethe’s Faust, with a cast of 60 and 19 sets. South Australia's centenary was celebrated in 1936 with Max Afford’s Colonel Light the Founder. The Rep moved again, in 1939, to the Tivoli Theatre (now Her Majesty's). The golden years, 1940-53, brought fine performances from names like Keith Michell, Ron Haddrick, Ruby Litchfield, Mimi Mattin, Iris Hart, Margery Irving, Phyllis Burford, Roy and Joy Grubb, Meta McCaffrey and Vivienne Oldfield.
Frances Margaret Anderson, who made her acting debut as a teenager with Adelaide Repertory theatre company, had an international career in stage, film and television, honoured with two Emmy awards, a Tony award, and nominations for a Grammy and an Academy award (for her role in Rebecca) as Judith Anderson. Born in Adelaide in 1897 and educated at Rose Park, she made her professional acting debut, aged 17, at Sydney’s Theatre Royal. Trying her luck in the USA, she made her Broadway debut in On the stairs in 1922. Anderson started in films with a supporting role in Blood money (1933), followed by Rebecca (1940), Otto Preminger's Laura (1944), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), A man called Horse (1970) and Star Trek III (1982). On stage, Anderson played Lady MacBeth in notable productions with the Old Vic Company in London opposite Laurence Olivier and in New York opposite Maurice Evans. In 1948, Anderson won a Tony for best actress in Medea with John Gielgud. Anderson was guest of the 1966 Adelaide Festival of Arts doing excerpts from Medea and MacBeth. At 73, Anderson played Hamlet in a USA tour. An Off-Broadway theatre was named after Anderson in 1984. She was given a Living Legacy Award by the Women's International Centre in 1986. Anderson's ashes are buried at the Adelaide Festival Centre.
Keith Michell had his first grounding in theatre in Adelaide in the 1940s with several of Lloyd Prider’s Playbox group productions at the Tivoli (now Her Majesty’s Theatre) and roles with Adelaide Repertory Company. Born in Adelaide, the son of a cabinet maker, and brought up in Warnertown near Port Pirie, Michell studied at Adelaide Teachers’ College and Adelaide University. Adelaide’s Playbox Theatre group gave Michell rounded experience in stage musicals. In 1945, he appeared in the vintage Mercenary Mary and designed the George Gershwin show Lady be good. Next year, he was in No No Nanette and made his professional debut with Playbox in the comedy Lover’s leap. Michell left in 1949 for England and joined the Young Vic theatre company, making his first appearance in London by 1951. His first London musical was And So to Bed, playing King Charles II. He toured Australia with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company 1952–53 and appeared in Shakespeare plays at Stratford-on-Avon. In 1956, on television, he played Henry Higgins in Pygmalion and starred in Don Juan at the Royal Court Theatre and Old Vic Company productions. Michell's string of f West End musicals included Irma la Douce, Robert and Elizabeth and Man of La Mancha. He won awards for his lead TV role in The six wives of Henry VIII in 1970 and the film Henry VIII and his six wives (1972). On American TV 1988-93, Michell appeared on the Murder, She Wrote series. He was artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre 1974-77, appearing in many of their productions.
The Arts Theatre, the 500-seat traditional pro-arch home of Adelaide Repertory Theatre company, opened in Angas Street, Adelaide, in 1963. The theatre was built for £45,000 on land bought 15 years before. Since the 1908 its at Elider Conservatorium, The Rep played in halls at Unley, Walkerville, the Queen's Hall (later the Embassy), the King's Theatre, the Tivoli Theatre (for 14 years), and the Victoria Hall in Gawler Place, Adelaide. A souvenir programme was issued for the production of Peter Ustinov's Romanoff and Juliet in 1963 to commemorating the Arts Theatre's opening. The theatre is now the stage for five community theatrical groups. Also in Angas Street, Adelaide, are the Royalty and Bakehouse theatres. In the suburbs, community theatre venues vary from Goodwood Institute to Parks Community Centre theatre. Country Arts SA theatres include the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre at Mount Gambier, the Keith Michell Theatre at Port Pirie, the Middleback Arts Centre at Whyalla Norrie and the Chaffey Theatre at Renmark.
ADELAIDE THEATRE GAINS ITS STRUCTURE IN SECOND HALF OF 20th CENTURY
Ralph Middenway, a major contributor to South Australian music and drama, was behind two tiny gems: the Little Theatre at the Adelaide University Union building and The Parks Theatre at Angle Park in Adelaide’s north-western suburbs. As Adelaide University Union CEO, Middenway did designs for a small theatre within a rebuilding project by architect Robert Dickson. The Little Theatre opened for the 1974 Adelaide Festival of Arts as home to University of Adelaide Theatre Guild, with Richard Morecroft in Our Town among its young actors at that time. Moving on to be first CEO of The Parks Community Centre, built during premier Don Dunstan’s 1970s as part of a public housing estate, Middenway oversaw the design of Theatre One at The Parks – a larger version of the heritage-listed Little Theatre at Adelaide University, also with architect Dickson. Middenway's work for the state's music and drama ranged from writing operas and plays to being first chair of the Richard Wagner Society of South Australia. From 1965, he lectured on music and theatre for adult education and WEA. In 2003-04, he wrote three plays for senior secondary drama students or youth theatre groups. But Middenway's most prominent role, over 20 years, was music/opera critic for The Advertiser.
Barry Egginton revived melodramatic fun live theatre and an old Adelaide theatre building when he ran the Olde Kings Music Hall from 1967-75 with theatre restaurant shows in the former Kings Theatre, corner of King William Street and Carrington streets, Adelaide. Eggington brought the theatre back to life with melodramas and vaudeville shows, such as Curse my fatal beauty, Burning desire in the desert dunes, Deadly designs on a damsel’s dowry, featuring stalwarts such as Phyl Skinner, Marie Fidock, Gordon Poole and Penni-Ann Smith, Sylvia Budgen, Max Height, David Clifford, Malcolm Harslett, Rhonda Pilkington, Ross Howard, Didi James, Margot Howard, Pam O’Grady, Stephen Davies, Darrell Hilton and David King. The original Kings Theatre opened in 1911 with the novelty of electric lighting. Seating 1500, it showcased comedy acts, sketch artists, pantomimes and boxing matches. The theatre was closed and rebuilt in 1928. The bottom floor became a ballroom, featuring a rubber buffered floor. When the upstairs theatre couldn’t sustain an audience, the primary focus became the ballroom. After a major fire, the building stayed vacant for many years.
The Red Shed Company – an era of original and challenging quality plays in the 1990s – was another colourful chapter in the history of the Bakehouse Theatre on the corner of Cardwell and Angas streets, Adelaide. A bakery in the 1890s, it became Communist Party headquarters from 1976. The party’s main creative artistic foray was a band, The Red Peril, that cut a record called “Give Fraser the Razor”. Salisbury College of Advanced Education (now part of the University of South Australia), through Keith Gallash and Jackie Cook, rented space from the party for its arts students to perform in what became the Red Shed. Its first play was Turning the tables by Dario Fo and Franche Rami. In 1990, the Communist Party collapsed. From the 1980s, the building's main theatre, a flexible space with capacity of 98, was home to the Red Shed Company, a Flinders University drama students colllective, guided by university drama centre director Julie Holledge, presenting eight years of original plays, highlighted by the works of David Carlin, Cath McKinnon, Melissa Reeve and Daniel Keene. Its first productions restaged projects by students such as Debbie Horsfall and Sam Shepard but David Carlin’s Bawky Play showed the company's ability to produce original work. Peter Green took over the building in 1998, renamed it The Bakehouse, and created the artists development programme for graduate actors. This lost funding in 2007 and Pamela Munt took over the theatre. It remains a venue for small independent theatre companies, such as STARC Productions, to present diverse works.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN DANCE TAKES GIANT STEPS INTO WORLD SPOTLIGHT IN 20th CENTURY
With a stage-struck mother a driving force in his career, Robert Helpmann went from a childhood in Mount Gambier to became an international figure in ballet but also theatre, film, ballet and opera. He was consultant (1968) and artistic director (1970) of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. Legendary Adelaide teacher Nora Stewart was an early influence on Helpmann. She “taught me to appreciate classical music and to understand what dance meant,” he said. Among Helpmann’s first ballet appearance was in the chorus at Adelaide's Theatre Royal for the 1924 premiere of Kenneth Duffield's musical Hullo Healo. By 1926, Helpmann had joined the touring dance company of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Highpoint of his dance career was the Sadler's Wells Ballet tour of the USA in 1949, when he partnered Margot Fonteyn in the lead roles of The Sleeping Beauty. Helpmann appeared in many films, including the Powell and Pressburger ballet films The red shoes (1948), when he was also choreographer, and The tales of Hoffmann (1951). In 1942, he played the Dutch Quisling in the Powell/Pressburger film One of our aircraft is missing (1942) and the Chinese Prince Tuan in 55 Days at Peking (1963). Helpmann is remembered through the national awards, the Helpmann Academy and a theatre named after him at Mount Gambier.
Leigh Warren gave Adelaide a second world-class dance company when he left the Australian Dance Theatre in 1993 to start his own group. Leigh Warren and Dancers has combined with the talents composers, musical groups and visual artists of different cultures to present new Australian dance of an international calibre over 21 years. The company has performed extensively overseas: Edinburgh International Festival, Holland Dance Festival (The Hague), The Turning World Festival (London), Seoul International Dance Festival (Korea) and in Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and the USA. After a distinguished career with the Australian Ballet, Ballet Rambert, Nureyev & Friends and Nederlands Dans Theater, Warren, in 1987, was appointed artistic director of Adelaide-based Australian Dance Theatre where he created 14 works and toured the company in Australia and overseas. He launched his own company in 1993, winning Australian Dance awards, a national Sidney Myer performing arts award, Green Room awards and Adelaide Critics’ Circle awards. In 2016, the Leigh Warren Dance Hub opened in Fowlers Building, North Terrace, Adelaide, where dancers could hone skills through residencies and workshops, It hosted the first Australia-Asia Dance Lab, an OzAsia Festival initiative, with 11 professional choreographers from Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong sharing skills and possible projects.
ADELAIDE-MADE MUSICALS A FEATURE OF MUCH OF 20th CENTURY
Adelaide was fertile ground for original musical productions in the 1920s. The first professional Australian musical, F.F.F., opened at Prince of Wales Theatre (formerly Tivoli, now Her Majesty's) in 1920. The next year, Jack Fewster and Frederick J. Mills created Yantabingie about a theatrical troupe on a remote sheep station. It had one performance at Thebarton Town Hall. Kenneth Duffield's Hullo Healo at the Theatre Royal in 1924 had a young Robert Helpman in the ballet chorus. In 1926, Jack Fewster worked with musician Tom King and book writer Edith Aird on Yvonne, about an Adelaide heiress. It ran for three nights at Norwood Town Hall and was the first Australian musical broadcast in its entirety on radio. The 1930s saw another Australian first with On The Airr written for radio by 5DN's Evan Senior, who in 1926, at 20, was the youngest Australian radio station managing director. Fewster, King and Aird's Dutini – A Song of India (1931) had eight performances at the Theatre Royal and was broadcast on 5CL. The Moon Dream (1932) was the last Australian musical at the Theatre Royal. By Dr. T.D. Campbell, its cast included Harold Tideman, later The Advertiser theatre critic. Lloyd Prider Playbox Theatre kept the Australian musical flag flying in World War II, with music by Maurice Sheard, at The Australia Hall (now Royalty Theatre) in Angas Street, Adelaide.
Robyn Archer's Songs From Sideshow Alley was the first Adelaide musical of the 1980s. Robyn Nevin played Trixie, while Archer was Pearl. Set in a seedy sideshow alley, Trixie and Pearl mourn the passing of the Royal Show as it used to be. As they nostalgically plan one last show, they perform all their old tricks. The show played three performances at Mount Gambier before moving to Adelaide’s Union Hall. A regional South Australian tour starred June Bronhill and Isobel Kirk and a Sydney version had Maggie Kirkpatrick and Nancye Hayes. Also in the 1980s were Nick Enright's musicals On The Wallaby, a musical documentary about an Irish family during the Depression, and Buckley's, about unemployed youth, both produced by the State Theatre Company of South Australia, where Enright had spent time as an associate director. On The Wallaby had a successful run at the Playhouse with a cast including Nancye Hayes and Phillip Quast. There were further productions in Sydney and Perth. Buckley's, in 1981, had music by Glenn Henrich, lyrics by Enright and a book by David Allen. Phillip Quast was again in the cast, as was Enright and, in keeping with the theme, free seats were available for the unemployed.
With seed money from global musical giants Cameron Macintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Emerald Room, produced by the State Theatre Company at the Dunstan Playhouse in 1994, was the last show for the Australian Musical Foundation set up by Jim Sharman and Michael Turkic. The show was crucified by the critics. By composer Chris Harriott and lyricist Dennis Watkins, The Emerald Room was set in a nightclub and concerned the relationships between a singer, the club manager and a songwriter, with a female impersonator doing Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin and Bette Midler. Paul Capsis was the drag queen, Judi Connelli the club manager, Nick Carrafa the songwriter, with Helen Buday the singer. Dutch Courage (1997), Scam! (1998), The Pink Files (2001) and Everything's F**ked – The Musical were four musicals by Sean Peter that premiered in Adelaide. Rob George and Maureen Sherlock's Lovers and Haters (2008), using satire and revue, with music by Quentin Eyers, to portray the secret life of South Australia's 1970s flamboyant premier Don Dunstan, met critical reaction.
LLOYD DUMAS AND JOHN BISHOP USE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL TO INSPIRE ADELAIDE IN LATE 1950s
Her Majesty’s Theatre in Grote Street, Adelaide,now run by the Adelaide Festival Centre, is having a $66 million revamp to be completed in 2020. The theatre has been an Adelaide landmark since it opened as the Tivoli Theatre in 1913 but changes in the 1960s/70s halved capacity to 970 seats. The upgrade will allow 1,472 seats on three levels, new foyers and spacious backstage areas. The original central front entrance will be restored, with a dramatic canopy using modern technology and celebrating the building’s Edwardian grandeur. The gods section, sealed off in 1970s, will be revealed again. A new entertainment wing will have three levels of bars and the added seats capacity will place Adelaide back on the touring circuit for major productions. Barry Humphries, patron for fundraising for the restored theatre, made his first stage appearance at the old Tivoli (later Her Majesty’s) in 1953. The Tivoli opened in 1913 with British vaudevillian Lillie Langtree and other stars who've appeared there include Lauren Bacall, WC Fields, Judi Dench and Whoopi Goldberg. They and others have signed the preserved autograph wall.
Adelaide Fringe Festival, second largest in the world in Edinburgh, had one of its significant symbolic theatre high points in 2018 with Adelaide writer-performer Joanne Hartstone’s That Daring Australian Girl – the true story of South Australian actress Muriel Matters who became a leading figure in the UK’s suffragette struggle – winning five-star raves at the Holden Street Theatres. Hartstone had won inaugural Made in Adelaide Award and The Holden Street Theatres' Award for the 2017 Adelaide Fringe for another solo show: The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign. Hartstone and Martha Lott’s Holden Street Theatres at Hindmarsh are staying true to the spirit of founder Frank Ford who saw the Fringe as a vehicle for quality small-scale theatre that has had to fend off an overwhelming volume off comedy and novelty acts. Lott’s theatres have brought from Edinburgh Festival the brilliant plays of Henry Naylor, including his Echoes that won five major awards at the 2016 Adelaide Fringe, followed by the equally impressive Angel the next year. The first Adelaide Fringe, in 1960 was the response by some local creative artists to start an alternative to the curated Adelaide Festival of Arts. The Fringe became an open access event, allowing anyone with ideas and enthusiasm to register.
The OzAsia Festival has brought another dimension of theatre to Adelaide Festival Centre. The theatre aspect of OzAsia was highlighted by its 2018 offerings: Baling by the Malaysian Five Arts Centre used actual transcripts of a secret meeting in 1955 to negotiate forming Malaysia as it separates from British domination. Hello My Name is … was a confronting monologue by Portuguese Australian Paulo Castro, presented by Timorese Jose Da Costa, describing the Indonesian occupation and the massacre in Dili in 1991 where more than 250 East Timorese demonstrators were killed in Santa Cruz cemetery. Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, by Taiwanese director and playwright Stan Lai, became a Chinese classic in Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland from 1986. Here is the Message You Asked For … Don’t Tell Anyone Else, designed and directed by 30-year-old Sun Xiaoxing, portrayed Chinese teenage girls living in their bedrooms in a cocoon of manga fantasy, glued to their mobile phones; a glimpse into the new China. War Sum Up by Kirsten Dehlholm’s Hotel Pro Forma – also called “Music. Manga. Machines" – brought an unlikely teaming of Santa Ratniece with Gilbert Nouno and UK electronica outfit The Irrepressibles, presenting a chamber opera around three characters from Japanese Noh theatre.
ADELAIDE A TRENDSETTER FROM 1970s WITH THEATRE IN EDUCATION; CHILDREN'S, YOUTH ARTS
Tony Roberts, founder of Bunyip Children's Theatre in Adelaide in 1964, was a catalyst for the start of young people's theatre in South Australia and for it to find a home in the disused Bonython mansion, Carclew, at North Adelaide. Roberts had a background in UK repertory theatre where he met Australian actress Maree Tomasetti. They married in 1957 and arrived in Adelaide with television jobs at Channel 7. A return to working in English television created their interest in children's theatre. Back in Adelaide, Roberts was a drama specialist for the education department when he created Bunyip, with children's favourites such as Pinocchio, Winnie the Pooh and Sleeping Beauty. At Robert Helpmann's 1970 Adelaide Festival, Bunyip presented children's opera, Julius Ceasar Jones. Bunyip's success led to Carclew becoming Australia's first performing arts centre for children. Carclew was a private home bought in 1965 by Adelaide City Council, with the state government help, and became the proposed site for a festival hall. Instead, in 1971, state premier Don Dunstan announced that Carclew House would become the South Australian Performing Arts Centre for Young People. Carclew Youth Arts Centre started (under Roger Chapman) after an enquiry into youth performing arts in South Australia in 1979 saw the need for it as the focal point: a creative administrative hub of funding, projects, policy and support. Now just called Carclew, the centre funds scholarships and mentoring for young South Australians and funds youth arts bodies working with children and young people.
Adelaide’s Patch Theatre, founded in 1972 by Morna Jones, a pioneer in Australian children’s television and theatre, is aimed at children aged four to eight. After Jones’ death in 1982, the-then Little Patch Theatre found its feet again under Des James, founder member of Troupe and actor with Magpie Theatre in Education for four years; and administrator Margaret Bennett. Later artistic director Christine Anketell developed a relationship with the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust for adaptions of children’s literature. Under artistic director Dave Brown, the company evolved into a highly regarded national and international touring company with a world-class repertoire. Brown adapted eight stories by children's author Paela Allan, producing Who sank the boat? Naomi Edwards, who took over in 2015, has strengthened the company’s links to the classroom and home by collaborating with scientists and educators in creating new works. Patch has performed 105 new works to more than 1.8 million children since 1972. touring across Australia and presenting more than 30 international seasons. Patch Theatre has accumulated accolades including two Helpmann awards and a Ruby. In 1994, Patch moved from Somerton Park to be part of the Pasadena Hgh School campus.
Windmill, South Australia's professional national theatre company aimed at children and young adults, is delighting audiences around the world. The company was set up in 2002 by the state government, with Cate Fowler as founding director and creative producer and Adelaide children’s author Mem Fox as founding patron. Using a project with a South Australian link to start Windmill, Fowler decided to adapt the picture book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Fox and illustrator Julie Vivas. Wilfrid was directed by Neill Gladwin, a former artistic director of Adelaide's Magpie Theatre, previously one of Australia's leading youth companies. Wilfrid became an Australian children's theatre classic. Under artistic director Rosemary Myers in 2009, Windmill developed an in-house style and expanded its audience to teenagers and young adults. Windmill was behind the film Girl Asleep, adapted from its stage production. Premiered at the 2015 Adelaide Film Festival, Girl Asleep won the 2016 CinefestOz best film, international festival prizes, including the Seattle jury prize, and two Ruby awards. In 2019, Windmill was touring China for the fifth time, with Baba Yaga, a Russian folk tale presented with modern technology, also to be performed in Taiwan, Norway, United Kingdom and Ireland. The company has previous international tours have included North America with Grug, Big Bad Wolf and Grug and the Rainbow. Besides its annual Adelaide season, Windmill also tours regional South Australia and interstate. It also presents a season at Adelaide’s DreamBIG Children’s Festival.
The 32-year history of Unley’s Urban Myth Theatre Company, dissolved in 2014, was resurrected as SAYarts. Urban Myth grew from theatre director Brigid Kitchin offering professional theatre workshops for young people in 1981, with support from Unley Council who gave access to the “Cottage” and later the Goodwood Institute. Urban Myth Theatre Company travelled with shows and workshop regionally, nationally and internationally and won many awards for quality. Over its life it employed 5000 professionals training 10,000 young people (aged 15-20) to take part in its 150 plays (70% Australian originals). When Urban Myth had to close in 2014, a collective of its former tutors, directors, writers and professionals gained community backing to resume the strong youth arts tradition as SAYarts. This was led by former Urban Myth general manager Bec Parnell, award-winning playwright, director and specialist youth tutor Sean Riley; theatre maker and actor Claire Glenn; dance teacher and theatre maker Nicole Allen; and guest tutors such as Tamara Lee. With community fundraising, they were able to get the group up and running again soon enough to rescue Sean Riley’s play Warren and have it on stage at the Goodwood Institute with 46 young players in 2014.
FLINDERS UNIVERSITY DRAMA COURSE FROM 1967 HAS A NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL IMPACT
Wal Cherry was foundation chair of drama – a first for an Australian university – in 1967: the year Flinders University started. Cherry built a course that’s unique in Australia by teaching theatre and film drama skills but with the concepts and analysis of a university degree. He came to Flinders University after being founder and director of Melbourne’s Emerald Hill Theatre Company with innovative programmes and bold productions, particularly of Australian plays. In its first year, the Flinders drama department had only Cherry and ex-ABC radio’s George Anderson as staff. It expanded rapidly in the 1970s. A champion of Berthold Brecht plays and theatre theory, Cherry was a key member of the board of the early State Theatre Company of South Australia. In 1971-72, he wrote and directed Horrie's Alibi, with a cast of Flinders students and professional actors.It also toured Israel, playing at kibbutzim as a cultural exchange. Former Flinders drama students have made impressive contributions to Australian film, theatre and television. The Wal Cherry Award is given annually for new Australian playwriting and Flinders University holds a biennial Wal Cherry lecture with the first in 2006 by Dr Noni Hazlehurst (a graduate of Cherry's Flinders course) and the second in 2008 by Dr Robyn Archer.
Started primarily by graduates from Flinders University drama school in 1996, Brink Productions now is a professional company started in 1996 as an actor-driven collective. Inspired by the great theatre ensembles of the world, Michaela Cantwell, Lizzy Falkland, Victoria Hill, Richard Kelly, David Mealor, John Molloy and Paul Moore were joined in their dream by Benedict Andrews who directed two of Brink’s early successes: Mojo by Jez Butterworth and his own radical reimagining of A Dream Play by August Strindberg. In 1998, Brink was awarded the South Australian government’s New Theatre Venture, transforming it from a dedicated collective to a public company limited by guarantee. From 1996 to 2004, the company produced more than 20 shows. In 2000, Brink presented the world premiere of Howard Barker’s nine-hour epic The Ecstatic Bible for the Adelaide Festival of Arts. In 2004, Chris Drummond became artistic director, creating original theatre by working with artists from different disciplines and background. His productions at Brink have been presented by most major Australian theatre companies. Brink staged the world premiere of When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell, at the 2008 Adelaide Festival. The play has gone on to have many new productions around the world.
QUALITY AND TALENT BUBBLE OUT OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S GRASSROOTS THEATRE PASSION
The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild is the second oldest amateur theatre company in South Australia, started in 1938. After 80 years of nearly 400 productions, the guild is still winning awards in a pivotal contribution to both amateur and professional theatre in Adelaide and Australia. In 2018, it won the Adelaide Theatre Guide Curtain Call best show drama (amateur) award for Three Tall Women, with Jean Walker awarded best female performance (amateur). This followed the same awards in 2016 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Julie Quick in the role of Martha. The guild has won many world, Australian and South Australian premières, most notably the first performances of Patrick White’s The Ham Funeral (1961), Season at Sarsaparilla (1962) and Night on Bald Mountain (1964). The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild has its home in the university’s North Terrace campus and, since 1974, its Little Theatre in the Union building, now heritage listed and designed by Adelaide music/drama legend with architect Robert Dickson
Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of South Australia (1958), Northern Light Operatic Society (1966) and Marie Clark Musical Theatre (1974) have added to the stream of musical theatre for Adelaide and suburbs. The Metropolitan prides itself on teaching young talent to present mainstream musicals (Bye Bye Birdie, Mr Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Grease) each May and October at the Arts Theatre in Angas Street, Adelaide. Northern Light Operatic Society (later changed to Northern Light Theatre Company) was formed to stage musical comedies and light opera to residents in the early northern suburbs in the new Shedley Theatre at Elizabeth. Quaker Girl was the first of more than 100 shows by Northern Light. The company has produced performers such as Andy Pole (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables), Charisa Lynne and Jaii Beckley who went onto professional roles. Tea Tree Gully piano and singing teacher Marie Clark started the company carrying her name when she formed a concert party of her students and local singers to entertain schools and charity groups. In 1974, the company staged the first of 50-plus major shows. Marie Clark also uses the Arts Theatre – as does Therry Dramatic Society for its musicals.
Galleon Theatre Group's colourful journey started 1967 as The Mirthmakers song and dance act, operating from a Norwood church hall. Putting on the classic farce Charlie’s Aunt inspired the nameless theatre group to set up in Marino Progress Hall nearer many of the group’s homes. Voluntary work upgraded the hall with materials bought from Hills Industries where one the group, Bill Jordan, worked. It was the Hills Industries advertising department who came up with the name Galleon. The chance to move to Pioneer Memorial Hall (former home of Pioneer Players) at Seacombe Gardens in 1979 saw the group rise to having sellout houses. In 2001, when the Pioneer hall was sold, Galleon’s venue became Marion Cultural Centre. Also coping with moves, Blackwood (Memorial) Players were founded in 1951 by Tina Fairbrother, starting with drawing room comedy, George and Margaret, in the Blackwood, Belair and Coromandel Boys’ Club. For many years, Blackwood Memorial Hall was home. In the 1980s, Blackwood Players became resident at the Tower Arts Centre at (then) Daws Road High School. In 2005, the Players moved to Goodwood Institute and, in 2006, they returned to the Blackwood Memorial Hall, now Blackwood 21. Companies such as Galleon and Blackwood survive and thrive only through the efforts of dedicated volunteers.
Adelaide’s loss of Willard Hall in Wakefield Street, Adelaide, and the Union Hall at Adelaide University (2010) as theatre venues has been leavened by the opening of spaces such as the Domain at Marion Cultural Centre (2001), the Holden Street Theatres at Hindmarsh (2002) and the reviving of the Odeon Theatre at Norwood as home to the Australian Dance Theatre. Actor and producer Martha Lott opened the Holden Street Theatres, with several performance spaces including The Arch – originally All Saints Anglican Church, designed by Henry Stuckey in the Norman style, with Bishop Augustus Short laying the foundation stone in 1849. Lott’s interests extend to developing the heritage-listed 2000-capacity Thebarton Theatre, one of Australia’s most flexible entertainment venue workhorses since 1926. Holden Street Theatres have gained local, national and international recognition as the home of quality theatre during Fringe Festival. Red Phoenix Theatre, an offshoot of the Burnside Players, has become Holden Street Theatres’ resident company and is dedicated to producing only Adelaide premieres of provocative plays. In 2017, Red Phoenix won the Adelaide Critics Circle community theatre group award with the best actor gong going to Brant Eustice for The Conspirators and Two Brothers.
NEW GENERATIONS BENEFIT FROM AND BUILD ON SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S STAGE TRADITION
Ben Francis, already a regular performer with Independent Theatre and The State Opera of South Australia as a teenager, helped found Promise Adelaide in 2014 to give South Australians under 25 the chance to present challenging drama and music while benefitting charitable initiatives in their community. In the 2016/17 Adelaide Fringe Festivals, Promise produced Musical Moments, a season of musical theatre cabaret with nearly 50 performers. In 2017, Promise Adelaide's first play, Private Peaceful, was performed by Ben Francis to critical acclaim. Francis aleady has performed extensively in the United Kingdom and Australia for many years. His credits include: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, High School Musical, The Little Mermaid, Wizard of Oz and Pirates of Penzance.In 2015, Francis played the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar, earning a best young performer nomination in the Adelaide Theatre Guide 2015-16 Curtain Call Awards. Francis also has appeared in Carmen (2011), and La Boheme (2012) with the State Opera, as Peter Pan in Peter and Alice, and the Jazz Singer in The Great Gatsby with Independent Theatre. In 2016, Francis had a supporting lead in State Opera’s world premiere of Cloudstreet!, adapted from the Tim Winton novel.