The Playhouse Theatre (Perth)

The Playhouse Theatre in central Perth, Western Australia was purpose-built for live theatre in the 1950s and remained one of the city's principal venues for performing arts for over half a century until replaced by the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia in January 2011.[1] It was demolished in October 2012 as part of a redevelopment of Cathedral Square.[2][3]

Playhouse Theatre
Playhouse Theatre facade, Pier Street, Perth
General information
Address3 Pier Street
Town or cityPerth, Western Australia
Coordinates31.9559°S 115.8617°E / -31.9559; 115.8617
Inaugurated22 August 1956
ClientNational Theatre Company
OwnerDiocese of Perth
LandlordPerth Theatre Trust
Design and construction
Architecture firmKrantz & Sheldon
The Playhouse Theatre


The theatre was constructed adjacent to St George's Cathedral on Pier Street land owned by the Anglican Church, the former site of the Church of England Deanery tennis court.[4] The building was designed by the local architectural firm of Sheldon & Krantz and constructed at a cost of £65,000. The main lobby contained a mural by local brutalist architect Iwan Iwanoff. The theatre was formally opened on 22 August 1956[4] to a capacity audience of 700, with the opening production of John Patrick’s 1953 Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Teahouse of the August Moon.[5]

In 1919 the establishment of the Perth Repertory Club had led to the development of a strong local amateur-based theatre scene. The Repertory Club initially worked out of a basement room at the Palace Hotel and, later, the old composing room of the Western Australian Newspaper Company.[6] The need for the Playhouse arose as Perth's main theatre, His Majesty's Theatre was considered too large to provide a feasible venue for locally produced live-theatre productions, and had been functioning principally as a cinema since the early 1940s. In the mid-1950s the board and members of the Repertory Club commenced fundraising for the construction of a smaller purpose-built theatre to stage their productions. With the opening of the Playhouse, the Repertory Club became a fully professional theatre company, the National Theatre Company.[4][5]

Notable actor Edgar Metcalfe was a regular performer on stage and also served three terms as artistic director between 1963-1984.[2] A rare period of box-office success was enjoyed by the theatre from 1978-1981 when Stephen Barry was artistic director of the National Theatre at the Playhouse. He arranged outstanding guest performances by international celebrities Warren Mitchell, Honor Blackman, Robyn Nevin, Timothy West, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Judy Davis, among others. Barry commissioned Dorothy Hewett's play, The Man from Muckinupin,[5][7] for the State's sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary celebrations in 1979 (WAY '79), despite hostile resistance from then state premier Sir Charles Court. However, soon after Barry's departure, the company lost its audience appeal. Despite an extensive renovation in 1982, with reduction of seating capacity, the National Theatre was liquidated in February 1984.[5][8] In 1984 the Playhouse was leased to the Perth Theatre Trust and the venue subsequently became home to The Playhouse Theatre Company (1984–85), Western Australian Theatre Company (1985–1991) and finally the Perth Theatre Company (1995–2009).[5] The Playhouse was principally used for drama, contemporary dance and comedy performances.

A traditional proscenium arch theatre with a raked auditorium, the Playhouse had bar and conference facilities, and hosted productions from the annual Perth International Arts Festival.[9] It was the performance and administrative home of the Perth Theatre Company for sixteen years, until the company's relocation to the new State Theatre Centre of Western Australia in January 2011.[5] The Company's last production was of David Williamson's The Removalists in April 2010.[10] Demolition was originally planned for 2010 but postponed when the Perth Theatre Trust sought to extend its lease due to delays to the construction of the State Theatre.[3] The final production was the pantomime production of Puss in Boots in December 2010, produced by the MS Society of WA.[11][12]

See also


  1. State Theatre Centre History
  2. "The Perth National Theatre Company – Part 2 of 2". West Australian TV History. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  3. Bevis, Stephen (3 September 2010). "Historic Playhouse facing final curtin". The West Australian. WA Newspapers Pty Ltd. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  4. "Coralie Condon's contributions to theatre and television in WA". WA TV History. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
  5. "The Perth National Theatre Company – Part 1 of 2". West Australian TV History. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  6. 'Polygon' (4 August 1933). "Repertory Club. New Theatre Opened. Local Writer's Play". The West Australian. Perth. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  7. Supple, Augusta (3 April 2009). "The Man from Mukinupin". Australian Stage online. (The spelling 'Mukinupin' was adopted later.)
  8. Milne, Geoffry. Theatre Australia (Un)limited: Australian Theatre Since the 1950s p. 175 Rodopi Amsterdam/New York, NY, 2004
  9. "Festival of Perth Programmes" (PDF). State Library of Western Australia. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  10. "David Williamson's The Removalists". Perth Theatre Company. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  11. Vranjes, Emilia (6 December 2010). "Playhouse's final hurrah". Community Newspaper Group. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  12. Bevis, Stephen (6 December 2010). "Theatre of dreams takes a final bow". The West Australian. WA Newspapers Pty Ltd. Retrieved 6 December 2010.

Further reading

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