The $66 million redevelopment of Adelaide’s historical Her Majesty’s Theatre was completed on Friday, with plans to welcome the newly revamped theatre’s first audiences into the venue this month. The development’s official completion was marked with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony led by Uncle Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O’Brien, a Senior Kaurna and Narrunga man.
Her Majesty’s Theatre. Photo © Chris Oaten
The theatre, which was built in 1913 and is the last of Australia’s Tivoli theatres, now features a 1467-seat auditorium over three levels, with the Grand Circle returning for the first time in more than 50 years. 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 redevelopment includes a larger backstage rehearsal room as well as accessibility improvements, including wheelchair access to all levels and backstage areas and improved seating on all levels.
The signature wall. Photo © Chris Oaten
The backstage area features the return of the famous ‘signature wall’ – covered with signatures from visiting stars including Julie Anthony, Rowan Atkinson and Lauren Bacall – which had to be deconstructed and reconstructed brick by brick as part of the redevelopment.
According to the Adelaide Festival Centre, the increased capacity, combined with more spacious backstage facilities, will allow Her Majesty’s Theatre to host at least 50 extra performances a year. “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,” said Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and Artistic Director Douglas Gautier. “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.”
Her Majesty’s Theatre auditorium. Photo © Chris Oaten
Though the city is still waiting for a dedicated concert hall, the revamped theatre will be a boon for Adelaide’s performing arts scene. “The city is really under-gunned in terms of sizeable venues for performing arts,” Gautier told Limelight last year. “What this will do is take the pressure off the Festival Theatre, which is a 2000-seater, and which is usually totally booked out. It will also enable ‘the Maj’ to welcome some of the musicals that currently don’t come to [Adelaide] because we’re currently stuck for venues.”
The theatre was to have opened with Six The Musical, but the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed back the grand reopening to a later date. Audiences will have the opportunity to experience a theatre production in the refurbished venue before that, however, with a limited number of tickets available for Slingsby Theatre’s family production The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy at Her Majesty’s Theatre from June 23. “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,” said Gautier. “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.”
“Adelaide Festival Centre is continuing to work with SA Health to make sure this performance will fit within current safety guidelines and we can safely increase audience numbers as restrictions are eased,” he said.
“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,” Slingsby Theatre Company Artistic Director Andy Packer said. “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.”