Accento (Arts News)

‘The Maj’ is given the royal treatment

Adelaide’s iconic theatre has been refurbished! The $66 million redevelopment began in June 2018. Today the newly-refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre has been unveiled. The completion of the exciting project was marked by a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony led by Uncle Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O’Brien, a senior Kaurna and Narruga man.

a time-lapse of the redevelopment | credit – Her Majesty’s Theatre

Built in 1913, it is the last remaining venue of the Tivoli theatres chain. In the 1960s and 1970s many of its architectural features were removed and its capacity reduced to around 900 seats. The cherished South Australian theatre is now a world-class venue with larger and more accessible state-of-the art facilities. It now features a 1467-seat auditorium with three levels. Its increased capacity and upgraded backstage facilities will allow it to host at least 50 extra performances annually, including some of Australia’s most popular touring shows.

Face lift

The building’s heritage façade and eastern wall have been preserved, with the Grand Circle returning for the first time in more than 50 years. The stunning new design, features two sweeping staircases in the expanded main foyer boasts some original Edwardian elements, including a pressed metal ceiling and elegant architraves and moldings. Other outstanding features include custom-built curved timber balcony fronts in the auditorium, stylish foyer bars on all three levels, a larger backstage rehearsal room and a dramatic glass façade to the new west wing.

In a nod to the theatre’s rich performing arts history, backstage features the return of the famous ‘signature wall’ which had to be deconstructed and reconstructed brick by brick. The wall is covered with signatures from visiting stars including Julie Anthony, Rowan Atkinson, Lauren Bacall and Barry Humphries, and is ready for a new generation of artists to sign. On the floors of each foyer level, brass tiles are engraved with the names of some of the notable stars who have graced the stage over the past 100 years. Accessibility improvements include wheelchair access to all levels and backstage areas and improved seating on all levels.

The redevelopment was designed by Adelaide-based COX Architecture and built by national construction company Hansen Yuncken, managed by the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and Adelaide Festival Centre. The project employed more than 150 construction workers at its peak and engaged a 90 per cent South Australian work force, including specialist artisan contractors and local craftspeople.

Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O’Brien | image supplied

First show

Douglas Gautier AM has announced the first opportunity for the public to enjoy a theatre performance since COVID restrictions began, with a limited number of tickets available for Slingsby Theatre’s family production The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy will grace the stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre from 23 June 2020. In the interest of public safety audience numbers will be capped at 20 people per show.

“We cannot wait to welcome audiences into this stunning venue to enjoy this multiple award-winning family show while supporting local arts workers through this challenging time. The children who sit on the stage here to enjoy this performance will witness the beginning of a great future and will always be part of the history of The Maj.

Douglas Gautier, Adelaide Festival Centre CEO & Artistic Director

Gautier reassured patrons that the Adelaide Festival Centre will continue to work with SA Health to ensure this performance will adhere to current safety guidelines, with plans to increase audience numbers as restrictions are eased.

“South Australia’s arts and entertainment scene is entering a new era with the redeveloped Her Majesty’s Theatre, which has been the pride of Adelaide for more than 100 years.”

“Having two large-scale theatres will help Adelaide Festival Centre accommodate our valued local home companies while also attracting some of the blockbuster shows coming to Australia. This means South Australians will no longer need to travel interstate to see some of the biggest and best shows.”

“We are thrilled to be the first theatre production in the refurbished and spectacular Her Majesty’s Theatre; particularly with a show that reflects the times of the theatre’s original opening in 1913. As cultural institutions re-open, it is significant that the first audiences in the historic Her Majesty’s will be children and families – an intergenerational community that are our audiences of now and the future.”

Andy Packer, Slingsby Theatre Company Artistic Director

‘The Maj’ was scheduled to officially reopen to the public in June 2020. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions and the postponement of Six The Musical, the theatre will have its grand reopening at a later date, when it is safe and practical to do so.

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