Saturday, 22 March 2008

Queens Theatre

The Queen’s Theatre is a place of national, state and local heritage significance and its colourful and chequered history is a rich source of tales with which we will weave a story that takes a full circle from its beginnings as the first purpose-built theatre on mainland Australia in 1841 to the present, 168 years later, when we tell the story of the grand old dame herself in a new theatre piece.

Queen’s has had not only several reincarnations as a performance venue, initially falling on hard times when Adelaide was vacated for the Victorian gold rush, reopening with the new (and still existing) façade in1850, but also stints as the space for what you might call ‘commercial or corporate theatre’.

In 1850 it was the site of the Supreme Court and Resident Magistrate’s Court for the Colonial Government of South Australia and during the 19th century buyers and sellers at Formby’s Horse Bazaar sat in the old theatre balconies to watch the horses parade across the stage. The hitching rings at the stables located in the ‘wings’ can still be seen.

Queen’s has also seen a livery stables and forge, warehouse, auction rooms, a tavern, car garage and car parking station —all rich sources of material for interpreting the stories and imagery of Adelaide’s development through the 19th and 20th centuries.

In the late 1980’s, under a cloud of possible demolition, Queen’s was subject to an archaeological dig which uncovered a significant underground area including a basement, dressing rooms and historical artifacts including sequins, tobacco pipes and an evocative single gold earring. The archaeological site beneath the bitumen floor remains readily accessible and one can wonder at what other stories might be found there should further digging occur.

Project: Hope’s Passion.