The West

Theatre of dreams bows out
Theatre historian Ivan King at the Playhouse Theatre. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

It may have only covered 800sqm but it evoked a world of emotion and adventure.

The theatre of dreams, as the Playhouse was known, is being demolished as part of the $580 million redevelopment of the St George’s Cathedral and Treasury precinct.

The Mask of Comedy and Tragedy bronze sculpture above the front door is the last remaining distinctive feature of the defunct theatre, which closed in 2010 after 54 years of operation.

Designed by Playhouse architect and co-founder Harold Krantz, the entry piece will be re-housed in the foyer of a new cultural centre and offices being built on the site by the Anglican Diocese of Perth.

WA performing arts figures were struck by the coincidence of the demolition with the recent death of influential director, actor and writer Edgar Metcalfe, known as “Mr Playhouse” for having staged more than 100 plays there.

“The passing of Edgar and the demolition of the theatre with which he was so intimately associated speaks of the fragility of life,” Perth director Anthony Howes said.

The Playhouse will make way for offices and the Cathedral Song School, a rehearsal and performance centre for the world-class St George’s Consort led by British organist and chorus master Joseph Nolan.

“I would be sad about the loss of the Playhouse were it not for the fact that we are getting the proposed new music school and a beautiful piece of architecture, which the Playhouse never was,” said theatre historian and former actor Ivan King, who appeared in 29 plays at the theatre.

“What I do remember is bumping my head so often coming up the stairs from the low basement dressing room to get on stage,” Mr King said. “Its replacement sounds like a sensational contribution to Perth cultural life.”

Mr King has included some props from a 1977 Playhouse production of Moliere’s The Miser in an exhibition of theatre masks at the Museum of Performing Arts, which is downstairs at His Majesty’s Theatre.

The Cathedral and Treasury project also includes a hotel and high-rise redevelopment of the Old Treasury Building site, a new City of Perth library on Hay Street and the refurbishment of the adjoining Public Trustee building.

The funeral service of Edgar Metcalfe, who died last week at the age of 78, will be at Karrakatta Cemetery’s Norfolk Chapel next Thursday at 10.30am.

The West Australian

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