Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents 32 SCOOP AUTUMN 2010
For many of us in Perth, the theatre
has existed more as a romantic no-
tion than a bona fide experience.
We like the idea of seeing a play;
we re intrigued by the spectacle of
powerful lighting and vivid sets. But rarely do we
actually indulge the fantasy.
And it s not because our city is bereft of worth-
while theatre -- there s plenty of it around. But you
do have to know where to look.
With the new State Theatre Centre of WA set
for unveiling at the end of this year, there s fresh
hope that locals will soon find it easier to access
the performing arts.
And convenience, it seems, will be one of our
sharpest hooks. The centre s Northbridge location
means patrons can park, have a meal, see a show
and cap the night off with a drink, all in an easy
night s stroll.
Kate Cherry, artistic director of the Black Swan
State Theatre Company, says it s this very scene
Perth audiences have been missing in the past.
"We haven t had a landmark destination that
allows for all this before," she says. "I think it ll
make the whole experience of going to the theatre
more comfortable and inclusive."
The building, which will house WA s two
pioneering troupes -- Perth Theatre Company and
Black Swan State Theatre Company -- finds apt
neighbours in our Cultural Centre on the corner
of William and Roe Streets. It will feature three
world-class performance spaces: the main 575-seat
Heath Ledger Theatre, the 200-seat flexible Studio
Underground and the multi-purpose Courtyard.
There are also two private suites and two
rehearsal rooms which replicate the size of the
respective indoor stages.
"For me as an artist, this is the most important
aspect -- having a rehearsal space that s the same size
as the stage we re working on," says Kate. "Normally
at Black Swan we re rehearsing in a room that s
one-third the size of the Playhouse stage.
"This way we can move all the sets and equip-
ment easily from rehearsal to theatre."
The then-Labor State Government announced
the centre in 2004 after nearly three decades of
consultation and reports. But building costs blew
out by more than double the proposed budget of
$42 million to a whopping $91 million -- that s
roughly $117,000 per seat.
Kate says it s problematic to measure the facili-
ties by price tag without considering the long-term
impact it ll have on Perth s cultural economy.
"This is an investment in our future," she says.
"A world-class venue like this is going attract
people to come and live in WA."
The technologies our artists will have access to
are nothing short of phenomenal.
There ll be a powered flying system which
can move scenery and lights in one operation;
an orchestra-pit lift mechanism for transporting
instruments; and a state-of-the-art lighting system
that can create black boxes with lights suspended
above a grid.
"The new theatre will give us much more
scope for spectacle," says Kate. "We ll be able to
fly people in and out of the fly towers, we ll have
a lot more space to use vertically. And we ll have a
stage that matches other stages around the country,
which will make touring much easier."
Perth Theatre s artistic director Melissa
Cantwell is equally excited about the creative
possibilities the new venue will generate.
She says the company has always sought to push
form and challenge audiences expectations, which
the studio space will be particularly conducive to.
"We re staging a majority of our shows in the
studio," she says.
"It s a beautiful theatre that gives us the inti-
macy of performance as well the technological
capabilities to use the space in various ways. I also
love that we can arrange the seating in any way we
want, and have technicians move lights above the
stage while we re still in rehearsal."
Designed by Kerry Hill Architects, the building
delivers a high level of acoustic separation between
the performance spaces, so -- in effect -- there could
be two rehearsals and two live shows happening
simultaneously without interference.
To keep we patrons happy, there ll be plush,
As a drum roll begins for the opening of our dazzling new State Theatre Centre, Perth's
theatre-makers are hopeful it'll put a fresh batch of West Aussie bums on seats. text nathan scolaro
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