The concept plans for the redevelopment of Adelaide’s Her Majesty’s Theatre by local firm Cox Architecture were unveiled last Thursday on stage at the theatre – The Grand Old Dame of Grote Street, as the heritage building is affectionately known.

Cox Architecture drawing of the redeveloped façade with new entrance. Courtesy of the Adelaide Festival Centre

The Her Majesty’s Theatre Renewal Fundraising Campaign, set up to raise public funds for the historic redevelopment, was officially launched at the same time. Barry Humphries has agreed to become the patron of the public fundraising campaign, which is supported by several other high profile arts identities including Greta Bradman, Todd McKenney, Rhonda Burchmore, David Campbell, Peter Goers, Kate Ceberano and Geoffrey Rush.

Coincidentally, Australian cabaret star Meow Meow is paying musical homage to the venue in her new cabaret show Souvenir, “a fantastical song cycle on the half-remembered misreported history of Her Majesty’s Theatre”, which she is performing at the venue in June as part of this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Her Majesty’s Theatre has been in operation for more than 100 years, having opened in 1913 when it was called the Tivoli Theatre. Adam Hannon, SA State Manager for Cox Architecture said that the restoration of the building “will blend its rich history with a contemporary design approach to create an iconic and landmark performance venue for Adelaide.”

The redevelopment, which is scheduled for completion in late 2019, will increase the theatre capacity from 970 to almost 1500 seats. There will be a new layout in the auditorium including an additional tier, different rakes, improved sight lines, and more room between the aisles. The proscenium arch will be widened and new stage equipment will be introduced. The front of house will also be upgraded with a new entrance as well as redesigned foyers and bars, more toilets and full disability access.

Cox Architecture diagram of a new foyer. Courtesy of the Adelaide Festival Centre

The State Government announced a $32 million grant last year for the redevelopment. The Adelaide Festival Centre Trust has now pledged to raise at least an additional $3.2 million dollars through public donations to enhance the project.

The Honourable Jack Snelling MP, Minister for the Arts said: “The Government’s commitment to improving the performing arts infrastructure both at Her Majesty’s Theatre and Adelaide Festival Centre is making a once in a generation change to the performing arts landscape in South Australia.”

“Creating a second large commercially viable venue in the CBD will ensure that in the future many of the musical blockbusters that currently bypass Adelaide because of the lack of suitable venues will come here. Creating a second large theatrical venue will also help increase the ‘mainstage’ access venue for our South Australian performing arts companies allowing them to develop their programmes in world class venues,” said the Minister.

Her Majesty’s Theatre is currently run by the Adelaide Festival Centre (AFC). Speaking to Limelight about the importance of the redevelopment, Douglas Gautier, the Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and Artistic Director, says: “Currently, the 2,000 seat Festival Theatre is Adelaide’s only large-scale commercial theatre and it is subject to numerous and competing demands that cannot always be met. For example, Disney theatrical shows do not come to Adelaide because the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust (AFCT) cannot provide access to the Festival Theatre for the length of time they require whilst meeting the needs of other commercial hirers and the public performing arts companies.”

“Renovating and expanding the capacity of Her Majesty’s Theatre will enable the AFCT to present more national touring works that do not currently make it to Adelaide, which includes works with widespread audience appeal such as blockbuster musicals and other theatrical, comedy and music products,” says Gautier.

Cox Architecture diagram with transparent façade. Courtesy of Adelaide Festival Centre

“Her Majesty’s Theatre will appeal to the producers of long-running shows which will be able to ‘take ownership’ of the venue in a promotional manner. Some of the commercial shows currently scheduled in the Festival Theatre will also be able to be shifted to Her Majesty’s Theatre, freeing capacity in the Festival Theatre, enabling the AFCT to better manage utilisation across both theatres and greater access to the Festival Theatre for public performing arts companies.”

The additional shows will “add to city vibrancy, create employment opportunities in the arts and entertainment industries and related fields, and drive increased tourism,” he adds.

Gautier says that it is important for the AFC to retain the redeveloped Maj “to balance the commercial work and public purpose work that the AFC delivers. In short, the AFC’s commercial programming subsidies community programming such as discounted children’s programming and educational programs and multicultural engagement activities such as OzAsia and the free moon lantern parade.”

Gautier believes that there is “a great history of public support for arts infrastructure in South Australia. In February 1970, a public appeal was launched supported by The Advertiser to raise $100,000 for a festival theatre. This target was met in just a week and the final amount raised was in excess of $160,000,” he said at the launch of the fund-raising campaign.

“We are aiming to replicate something similar in 2017 dollars. In fact, we already have close to $250,000 committed to the fund before the official launch of the campaign. That is on top of the almost $750,000 previously raised to purchase 62 Grote Street.”


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