I hope I never get over the excitement of seeing a play in an iconic venue, particularly when I’ve written the play myself.
While The 26-Storey Treehouse was playing in the Sydney Opera House in January, I loved strolling smugly past the tourists taking their selfies outside, flashing my backstage pass at the Stage Door and walking through to chat with the cast and crew, then heading out into the foyer to mingle with the audience. It was my theatre for the month.
Now the play is on tour, this week in the oldest theatre in Australia, and arguably the most beautiful.
Hobart’s Theatre Royal has been operating since 1835. It was built in what was then the rough end of town, surrounded by brothels and pubs (perhaps convenient for the post-show celebrations), abattoirs and factories.
Early performances featured cockfighting and boxing matches, interspersed with religious meetings.
By the 1940s it had fallen into dangerous disrepair and was threatened with demolition. A campaign to save it was lent support when Laurence Olivier and the Old Vic company performed there in 1948, and Olivier appealed for its restoration.
The ghost of an actor known as ‘Fred’ also featured in the successful campaign and the theatre was saved.
The Sydney Opera House is wonderful on the outside; inside its theatres are functional but not memorable. The Theatre Royal is the exact opposite. It’s not much to look at from the street.
Inside, it’s a different story. Just walking in raises the level of excitement, making people feel they’re in for something special.
For those performing in the theatre, there’s a wonderful sense of being part of a long cavalcade of stars who have trodden its boards. We’re proud to have it as ‘our’ theatre.
‘I love your show,’manager Don Hopkins tells me. I’m surprised for a moment, since the company hasn’t arrived yet and he hasn’t seen the play. ‘It’s almost sold out,’ he continues. Ah – the sort of show any manager would love!
Unfortunately I had to leave Hobart before the play began there, but my independent informant was there at opening night and assures me it was very well received.
AND FINALLY…The 26-Storey Treehouse will tour Australia until August 2015, playing in every capital city and many regional venues. For the full itinerary, click here.
The Theatre Royal runs tours for the public on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11am. Cost $12. To visit the theatre’s website, click here.
The writer was the guest of Tourism Tasmania.